Data breaches and other security crimes surged ahead in 2015, a new study has found.
A total of 429 million identities were stolen last year as a result of data breaches, according to Symantec.
The security software company’s latest Internet Security Threat Report, released Tuesday, notes that is a 23 percent increase from the prior year.
There were also a record nine mega-breaches reported last year. Mega-breaches are defined as data breaches involving more than 10 million records.
Additionally, the report found that crypto-ransomware attacks increased by 35 percent last year. This type of attack involves using malicious software to encrypt a victim’s computer files and block the victim from accessing them until a ransom is paid.
Ransomware called “CryptoWall” even prompted the FBI to issue a public warning last year, calling it “the most current and significant ransomware threat targeting U.S. individuals and businesses.”
Symantec also reported that more than 75 percent of all legitimate websites have vulnerabilities that have yet to be patched. Fifteen percent of legitimate sites’ vulnerabilities are considered critical, “which means it takes trivial effort for cybercriminals to gain access and manipulate these sites for their own purposes,” the report states.
Symantec, which is known for software like Norton Antivirus, offers consumers the following tips to protect themselves:
- Use strong passwords: Use strong and unique passwords for your accounts. Change passwords every three months, and never reuse your passwords. Additionally, consider using a password manager to further protect your information.
- Think before you click: Opening the wrong attachment can introduce malware to your system. Never view, open or copy email attachments unless you are expecting the email and trust the sender.
- Protect yourself: An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure. Use an internet security solution that includes antivirus, firewalls, browser protection and proven protection from online threats.
- Be wary of scareware tactics: Versions of software that claim to be free, cracked or pirated can expose you to malware. Social engineering and ransomware attacks will attempt to trick you into thinking your computer is infected and get you to buy useless software or pay money directly to have it removed.
- Safeguard your personal data: The information you share online puts you at risk for social engineered attacks. Limit the amount of personal information you share on social networks and online, including login information, birth dates and pet names.