More than 420 billion records were stolen in 2016 as criminals became more adept at bypassing security measures and exploiting vulnerabilities, it has been stated.
This figure was highlighted by SC Magazine in order to mark Data Protection Day, which took place on January 28th and aimed to make people and businesses more aware of the need to secure their sensitive digital information.
This year, there was a particular focus on reminding firms of their responsibilities under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in 2018. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham commented: "Today is the perfect day to recognise that the GDPR is a once in a generation change in practice. GDPR puts citizens and consumers at the heart of data protection law."
The rules, which will come into force from May 2018, will update and standardise data protection rules across the EU, giving IT managers clear guidance on what their responsibilities are when it comes to protecting personal and business data.
Emma Butler, data protection officer at Yoti, told SC Magazine: "Data Privacy Day presents a great opportunity to promote best practice for both consumers and businesses when it comes to protecting personal data".
Increasingly, this means not only securing PCs, but also smartphones and tablets, as growing volumes of data are stored on these devices and accessed when users are out of the office.
The good news is that businesses are becoming more aware of what needs to be done. A study by F-Secure highlighted by SC Magazine, for instance, revealed that owners of Apple iOS devices are now just as likely to say their device needs protection as those who use Windows or Android equipment.
This does not just mean anti-virus software. People who view business data on the move need to make sure their devices are safe from 'visual hacking', where highly sensitive details are visible on the screen to anyone. As more workers view this information on places such as buses and trains, steps to prevent such breaches will be essential.
In addition, one in 20 revealed they use cloud services even though their employer has explicitly restricted their use. Mr Welfare has therefore urged organisations to take steps to get to grips with this problem, such as ensure that all company data is encrypted before employees are able to upload it to the cloud.
He added that stringent security policies and employee education programmes need to be put in place, so the potential dangers of cloud-based services are adequately conveyed to members of staff. “Businesses must catch up with the employee cloud revolution or risk potentially catastrophic data loss,” he stated.