There are still some businesses and individuals out there who believe that hackers are chiefly interested in stealing credit card information and going on a spending spree before the bank catches on. There's good reason for that concern: Credit card fraud seems to be on the rise. In 2014, 31.8 million U.S. consumers fell victim to card fraud, roughly three times more than 2013, according to Javelin's 2015 Data Breach Fraud Impact Report.
However, hackers' palettes have expanded. Importantly, credit card hacks are neither the only target nor the item that will prove most valuable to them. Businesses should know what kind of data hackers seek and do all they can to keep those assets safe – especially when that information belongs to their clients.
1. Health care records
Health care records are a big ticket for hackers, according to InfoSystems. On the surface, they might seem harmless – private, maybe, but not necessarily tied to financial risk. However, most people do have critical information built into health insurance accounts: social security numbers, email addresses and passwords, even credit card information. In this way, a hacker seeking bank account data can target health care providers and come away with an even more valuable bounty. Even without accessing those related accounts directly, hackers can still sell health care records for about $50 each on the black market, the FBI reported in 2014.
2. Other insurance information
Health care providers are an obvious target because of their vastness and the quality of the data they hold, but other insurance providers may fall victim for many of the same reasons. Among those is this fact: It's not immediately apparent when an account is compromised – hackers can infiltrate these records without raising suspicion for months before the company becomes aware. Plus, once customers are aware, it isn't easy to cancel or suspend coverage. For example, many states require car insurance and going without coverage will lead to fines and penalties.
3. Sensitive accounts
Sometimes, hackers don't care about monetary gain – certain groups seek to illuminate private records as a means of making a political statement or acting on some kind of moral impulse. Think of the rash of politically motivated hacking and data dumps that have occurred during the 2016 election cycle, or the 2014 Sony hack that revealed gaps among actors' and actresses' wages, according to WikiLeaks. Whether or not your agree with the results, they both illustrate that some cyberthieves have more than monetary gain as their motive.
While some hackers want money and others want to expose, another group prefers to simply stir the pot. Distributed denial-of-service attacks aim to flood a single server with requests so as to shut down a website completely. Does that give hackers information or financial gain? Maybe not, but it can be used to create chaos, damage business or service, and sow fear and mistrust among users or consumers.
5. All your passwords
When a hacker infiltrates a password database, plenty of users will have reason to be concerned: According to the June 2015 TeleSign Consumer Account Security Report, 54 percent of people use no more than five different passwords during their entire online life. Additionally, duplicate passwords protect 73 percent of online accounts. Hackers know that – they're betting if they find one password, they can gain access to a number of different accounts. Unfortunately, they're often right.
The reality is, in our digitally connected age, hackers can turn all kinds of account information into personal gain at your or your clients' expense. But that's not reason to despair: You can shore up your cyber defense well enough to deter hacking attempts and keep your data safe. The key is to treat all of your private account information as a potential target for cyberthieves and practice good cyber safety protocol across the board.
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