Group claims data breaches reached record high in '07

The loss or theft of personal data such as credit card and Social Security numbers soared to unprecedented levels in 2007, and the trend isn't expected to turn around anytime soon as hackers stay a step ahead of security and laptops disappear with sensitive information, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said while companies, government agencies, schools and other institutions are spending more to protect ever-increasing volumes of data with more sophisticated firewalls and encryption, the investment often is too little too late.

'More of them are experiencing data breaches, and they're responding to them in a reactive way, rather than proactively looking at the company's security and seeing where the holes might be,' Linda Foley, who founded the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center after becoming an identity theft victim herself, quoted by the Associated Press report said.

Teh Associated Press report said Foley's group lists more than 79 million records reported compromised in the US through December 18. That's a nearly fourfold increase from the nearly 20 million records reported in all of 2006.

Another group, Attrition.org, estimates more than 162 million records compromised through December 21 both in the US and overseas, unlike the other group's US-only list, the report said.

Attrition reported 49 million last year, it added.

But the biggest difference between the groups' record-loss counts is Attrition.org's estimate that 94 million records were exposed in a theft of credit card data at TJX, the owner of discount stores including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. The TJX breach accounts for more than half the total records reported lost this year on both groups' lists, the report further said.

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