If it seems like nearly every day, I'm telling you about the latest hack - or two or three - it's because the cybercriminals are really working overtime to find and exploit security flaws in nearly every area of technology. And the number of cards, accounts and people hacked just get bigger with every attack. The all-time record-holder hack at Target last fall hit 40 million cards. But that record quickly fell when hackers ripped off 56 million cards at Home Depot, followed by even more at JPMorgan.
Now, the FBI has totaled up all the hacks over the past year, and the number is stunning: 500 million accounts hacked! That's more accounts than there are people in the entire United States.
Nearly 110 million Americans have had their personal data exposed by cybercriminals during this time. A study by Verizon showed that many people in the business community who had been hacked didn't even know their information was compromised.
"We're in a day when a person can commit about 15,000 bank robberies sitting in their basement," said Robert Anderson, executive assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Cyber Response and Services Branch.
And, the tide isn't going to turn anytime soon. Over 400 million of those records were hacked in just the past six months. The FBI and Secret Service have warned companies that the American financial industry is one of the world's biggest targets for cybercriminals. That's terrifying when you consider how much of your savings and money is tied up in the digital world.
But, the government is encouraging businesses to fight back by preparing themselves, so they'll be ready when hackers come knocking.
The FBI is warning major businesses and financial institutions that when it comes to cyberattacks, it's a matter of when, not if. It's the business' responsibility to be prepared.
"You're going to be hacked," Joseph Demarest, assistant director of the FBI's cyberdivision, told the business leaders. "Have a plan."
The biggest thing a company can do is speak up. Both the FBI and Secret Service are encouraging companies to come forward when a hack occurs, so they can help deal with the mess and secure customer information.
The U.S. government is also trying to be proactive in tracking down and prosecuting hackers. Many of the hackers responsible for recent attacks come from overseas, so the FBI and Secret Service are cooperating with foreign law enforcement to bring those criminals to justice.
One Romanian hacker was lured to Boston by Secret Service Special Agent Matt O'Neill, who used the Internet to pose as a woman and invite the cybercriminal on a trip to the USA to enjoy gambling and romance. "He was quite surprised that I was the one meeting him when he arrived," said O'Neill, who worked on the case for months.
But, the hacked companies aren't the only ones who need to step up to the plate. You need to stay on top of your accounts to make sure you know when you've been hacked. If a company you do business with falls victim to a cyberattack, call your financial institutions immediately to get new credit or debit cards. That way, the card information the hackers might have stolen is outdated before they can use it. Also, make sure that your passwords used to protect all of your online accounts are up to snuff.