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“Holiday season underscores the growing concern of data security”

Safe and Sound By Margaret Utterback

Ahh, the holidays! A time for giving, a time for sharing, a time for family and a time to worry about data security.

While every company is at risk of experiencing a data breach, retailers in particular are in the line of fire. During the holidays, retailers—both online and brick-and-mortar—are busier than any other time of the year. As hackers continue to become more sophisticated, companies and their clients, vendors and customers are more vulnerable than ever.

In fact, BitSight Technologies, a platform that rates companies’ security effectiveness, recently analyzed the risk of a breach at 300 of the largest retailers. The results revealed that 58 percent of those companies are less secure than they were a year ago, primarily because these more sophisticated hackers are getting through retailers’ firewalls and stealing data faster than ever.

While companies are still getting their heads around their responsibilities to protect the data they collect and store (in fairness, many are taking steps to prevent such attacks), consumers’ concerns over being personally affected by a breach is on the rise.

According to a recent Gallup Poll report, 69 percent of Americans report they frequently or occasionally worry about this happening to them. Having their computer or smartphone hacked worries 62 percent of Americans—the only other crime that is a top concern for the majority of the country.

CNBC reported on Dec. 9 that, at an average of $765 per person, Americans will bespending more during the 2014 holiday shopping season than they have in the past five years—and 12 percent more on average than they did last year. With more money changing hands and credit card companies relaxing their fraud restrictions between Black Friday and Christmas day (a typical practice this time of year), a perfect storm has formed for massive data breaches.


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