Millions of individuals are being robbed of personal information around the world, with company data hacking increasing by the year.
That is according to a new report by KPMG, who say external data leaks have affected over 160 million people this year through 835 separate incidences, representing a jump of over 40% since 2011.
Hacking also accounted for 67% of the data loss by number of incidents during the past twelve months according to the company's Data Loss Barometer, which tracks global trends for lost and stolen information.
But while in previous years hackers were just as likely to focus on stealing medical records or government information, the hacking of information held by businesses has jumped globally from only 8% of total incidents in 2010 to 52% in 2012.
“What we are witnessing is a shift from the accidental loss of data to deliberate theft – either to steal or re-sell the data, or sometimes simply for fun or to make a great headline," says Philip Whitmore, KPMG New Zealand’s security director.
“Several of the world’s largest companies have been targeted over recent months by hackers who have grown in sophistication.
"It is now not just a lone hacker sitting in their bedroom but, in many cases, serious organisations backed by nation states who are leading this new phenomenon.”
Media companies out of all sectors both private and public, witnessed the highest incidence of hacking, with 98% of all data loss in 2012 accounted for in this way.
The category of “organisations” referring to bodies such as clubs and not-for-profit organisations were not far behind at 94%, while retail was the third highest identified sector with 76%.
The severity of the issue was highlighted by the research in that “personally identifiable information” such as names and credit card information which can be used to identify a single person, remains by far the biggest reason for breaches of security at 46% in 2012.
This compares with the next largest identified sector of password information that accounted for only 16% of incidents, although this had increased from just 5% in 2011.
Whitmore points out that New Zealand is not isolated from these incidents, saying:
"In New Zealand we shouldn’t be complacent.
"Increasingly we are seeing headlines in the media surrounding data loss, with the Privacy Commissioner describing 2012 as the Year of the Data Breach.
"What we see in the media however, typically only includes incidents where the breach has entered the public domain.
"Incidents which involve the loss or theft of commercial data go largely unreported.”
Have you been a victim of data theft at work or at home? Tell us your experiences below