At least 460 million records were exposed in data breach incidents that were reported in May. The figure is a very conservative estimate as it reflects only publicly reported events.
In many cases, the amount of data exposed to unauthorized users was not provided, so the number is likely much higher.
While not all the records represent sensitive or personally identifiable information and it is a highly cautious count, it is a worrying result.
IT Governance, a provider of cyber risk and privacy management solutions, compiled a list of publicly disclosed cyber incidents that impacted data records from various services around the world.
The company counted 8.8 billion records exposed in May but 8.3 came from a single incident at AIS mobile operator in Thailand, who exposed a database of DNS query and NetFlow logs.
With this event, IT Governance counted 105 incidents that exposed over 8.8 billion records. Adding the numbers from major incidents, we stopped counting at 460 million. The list also has many entries where the compromised records is unknown.
In a breakdown of the incidents, the same source attributes 39 of them to cyber attacks, 37 to data breaches, 17 to ransomware attacks, and six to insider threats or other types of cyber events.
It is worth highlighting that not all the records are sufficiently valuable for attackers to use but they can provide the necessary context for an attack.
Reports for previous months from the company show that April was the month with the smallest number of records exposed as a result of data breaches and cyber attacks: 216 million from 49 publicly reported incidents.
Monthly reports show that in March there were 67 incidents reported, cumulating at least 832 million records. Before that, in February, 623.5 million records were exposed in 105 incidents.
January shows with the largest number of exposed records, 1.5 billion from 61 incidents. Most of that figure, though, is from a report in November 2019 from vulnerability analysis and management company Greenbone Networks, who found medical data exposed on the internet.
Despite these inconsistencies, data breaches and leaks are showing up more frequently in media reports. However, what gets into the public space reflects only a fraction of the current reality.
In many cases, the victims learn of the intrusion at a much later time or don’t learn about it at all. Others, don’t even report the incidents for fear of fines and losing their customers.
Hackers are constantly trading or selling smaller data sets that do not capture media attention. There multiple actors that steal databases and either extort owners for money or sell them. These incidents are usually noticed only when the activity is on a larger scale.