US data breaches hit record high in 2021 affecting nearly 300 million victims

Ruth C. | February 15, 2022

Every year brings new data breach victims. According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, the volume of publicly reported data compromises in the United States reached a record-high of 1,862, affecting 293.9 million victims.

While the number of compromises soared by 68% compared to 2020, the number of victims actually fell by 5%.

The data is based on 2021 in Review Annual Data Breach Report by Identity Theft Resource Center.

Even with the record number of data breaches taking place last year, the number of victims was the lowest in the past seven years since 2015. This downward trend may be caused by a decrease in mass data breaches.

Names were the most commonly exposed personal information. It was leaked in 1,603 data breaches. Full social security numbers were revealed in 1,136 compromises, while dates of birth in 686. Other commonly exposed personal data include current home addresses (681) and medical history (464).

Overall, the leak of sensitive records increased by an alarming 75%, from 882 in 2020 to 1,543 in 2021. Fraudsters who get their hands on such sensitive information can use it to commit a variety of crimes, from scams to full-fledged identity theft.

The manufacturing and utilities sector suffered the most

All major economic sectors suffered from data compromises in 2021. However, some were affected more than others.

The most impacted industry in terms of the number of victims was manufacturing and utilities, with 49.8 million breached accounts — a whopping 1,618% increase from last year. The number of data compromises affecting the sector also grew more than threefold from 70 in 2021 to 222 in 2021. 

Next up is the technology sector with 44 million victims. Despite the high victim count, it suffered significantly less — 79 attacks.

The healthcare sector occupies the third spot on the list, with 28 million victims. It was affected by 330 data compromises — more than any other sector. 

Professional and financial services round out the top five with 22.7 million and 19.7 million victims, respectively. The professional service sector had 184 data compromise incidents, while the financial sector had 279. 

Other highly affected sectors include retail (7.1 million), government (3.2 million), non-profit (2.3 million), education (1.7 million), and transportation (534,280).

Overall, cyberattacks were the root cause of 1,613 or 87% of data compromises, with phishing, smishing, and business email compromise (BEC) attacks being the reason for 537 breaches. Furthermore, 179 breaches occurred due to human and system errors, while 51 due to physical attacks. 

Check out our other articles on data breach trends in 2021:

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.

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data breach

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