Approximately 708 million records were compromised in 2015 as a result of data breaches.
That figure is one of the major findings of Gemalto's latest report, 2015: The Year Data Breaches Got Personal (PDF).
For its publication, the provider of digital security solutions relied on the Breach Levels Index (BLI), a resource which aggregates publicly available information about data breaches around the world and which enables organizations to conduct their own risk assessment.
The BLI has identified approximately 3.6 billion compromised records since 2013.
Notwithstanding that total, an analysis of last year's security incidents reveals that the number of data breaches and the number of records compromised declined by 3.4 percent and 39 percent, respectively.
2015 saw 1,673 publicly reported data breaches. Of these, some 46 incidents involved more than one million affected records.
Five events in particular, including the Anthem breach, the Office of Personnel Management hack, and the intrusion at Experian, accounted for a large portion of the 707,509,815 records compromised in 2015.
It is important to note that last year's figure could actually be significantly higher, however. This is because for nearly half (46 percent) of the reported breaches, there was no information available for how many records might have been compromised.
The report goes on to note that malicious outsiders caused 58 percent of incidents, with identity theft acting as the chief motivator of approximately an equal percentage of breaches.
"In 2014, consumers may have been concerned about having their credit card numbers stolen, but there are built-in protections to limit the financial risks," Jason Hart, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Data Protection at Gemalto, told Yahoo! Finance. "However, in 2015 criminals shifted to attacks on personal information and identity theft, which are much harder to remediate once they are stolen."
Most of the breaches occurred in the United States, at 1,222 incidents, followed by the United Kingdom (154), China (59), Australia (42), New Zealand (22), and Germany (14).
Gemalto's report highlights the growing inevitability of breaches for governments and private organizations all over the world.
"You're never going to prevent breaches," Hart added, as quoted by SCMagazine. "But if you get people to accept that, then they can sit back, and determine what data would cause their business the biggest pain."
The most at-risk data types could be those that feature prominently in your organization's compliance culture. To learn more about how you can protect your data and mitigate the risk of reputational damage and financial costs, please click here.