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Personal Information Theft Soars to Unprecedented Levels

Personal data breaches like theft of credit card numbers and social security information reached dizzying heights in 2007. The trend is not likely to be plugged in the near future as hackers maintain their lead and sensitive information keeps unabatedly disappearing.

Even if government agencies, companies, schools and other establishments continue to spend more on safeguarding their data with increasingly sophisticated encryption procedures and firewalls, the investment is generally inadequate and delayed.

Linda Foley, the Founder of San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center, said that increasing number of organizations are experiencing data thefts, and they respond to the cases as a reaction, instead of proactively plugging holes in the company's security systems, as published by Chron on December 30, 2007.

Foley's group considers that 2007's greatest breach was related to TJX. The security breach is supposed to have begun in Miami, when hackers captured wireless transfers of financial information of customers between two Marshall's stores. That became an entry point for hackers to ultimately break into the central databases of TJX.

Data breaches are increasingly proving costlier for companies. It not only affects them financially but also damages their reputation. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, an American non-profit group, found over 215 Million records of US residents busted since January 2005 due to security failures.

Another research organization, Ponemon Institute, found that American companies affected by data breaches shell out an average of $197 for the recovery of a single record, a 43% increase from 2005. The institute said that data breach costs pose a considerable danger to establishments of all sizes.

Moreover, Foley group disclosed that with growing volumes of data transmission over wireless networks, it becomes easier for hackers to break in. Eavesdroppers are learning faster than earlier to get around security safeguards.

Also, some spectacular failures like inappropriate payments to teachers at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Arizona State University (ASU) and a major implementation failure at the UK National Health System were seen in 2007. Although these failures are tremendous, the total number of people affected is very little if put against the collective harm of data breaches.

Related article: Personal Security Fears Weigh On Aussies, Kiwis

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