This week, California Attorney General Kamala Harris released the second annual Data Breach Report, which detailed the 167 data breaches reported to her office in 2013. These data breaches collectively impacted nearly 20 million Californians, reflecting the growing menace of cybercrime.

The AG’s Data Breach Report reflects an increase of over 600 percent in the number of affected Californians since the 2012 report. This was largely due to the high-profile Target and Living Social data breaches, which exposed more than 7.5 million Californians. More than half of the 2013 breaches (53 percent) were caused by computer intrusions, described in the report as “malware” and “hacking.” The remaining breaches resulted from the physical loss or theft of laptops (26 percent) or other devices containing unencrypted personal information as well as unintentional errors (18 percent) and intentional misuse by insiders (4 percent).

The AG’s office provides key recommendations to California retailers to prevent future data breaches. Retailers should:

  • update their point-of-sale systems to the safer “chip-enabled” technology;
  • implement appropriate encryption solutions to devalue payment card data; and
  • respond promptly to data breaches.

These recommendations are significant, as the AG report indicates that the retail sector is most heavily targeted by cybercriminals, with 88 percent of that sector’s data breaches the result of criminal enterprises.

Full details can be found in the AG’s report here at pages16-24.