With personal information tied to virtually every wireless move we make, our privacy faces increased risk to hackers, thieves, careless employees, and lax data protection.
White Lodging Services Corporation is the latest company to report a systems breach at restaurants and lounges at 14 independently run, brand-name hotels. Affected card holders are being notified. The White Lodging breach is one of more than a dozen reported so far this year.
But according to research by the Online Trust Alliance, 89 percent of the data breaches reported this year could have been avoided by simply following what are known in the business industry as "best practices."
OTA says it is a non-profit organization aimed at educating businesses, government and financial institutions to do more than simply meet minimum compliance standards for data protection.
A Chronology of data breaches maintained by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse shows breaches by hacks, theft, online fraud, careless data handling, workplace disregard on the rise. This year's cases include breaches on Skype, Snapchat and other social media, school records, employee records, Neiman Marcus, Michael's craft stores, patient records from medical centers and a public safety server in Bellevue with 6 thousand emergency medical response records from the Northeast King County Regional Public Safety Communication Agency.
Once our information us out there it can end up anywhere in the world, even years down the line. The list of data breaches now fills nearly 200 pages, single spaced, that's more than 663 million personal records exposed. since tracking started in 2005. And the problem is getting worse-
"Criminals are sophisticated and always going to try to find a way to get in. In a back door, try and hack," explained Tim Wallach, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.
Which is why OTA, state and federal regulators, and cyber crime experts are stepping up their game to educate the people collecting your information- and pushing lawmakers to get tougher about privacy abuse.
"We're working with congress and states to have a greater and higher level degree of transparency where users can control what data is shared and by who," said OTA Executive Director and President Craig Spiezle.
The online trust alliance is also pushing congress for a new data breach notification law The Data Security Act, that requires organizations to notify right away if we're at risk of identity theft or fraud- and notify regulators immediately if a breach exceeds 5,000 records.
As for what you can do, read your statements, review your credit report, don't hit reply to emails -- type out the email address yourself, and file online scam and fraud complaint with the IC3, the Internet Crime Complaint Center so law enforcement and regulators have information about what criminals, and companies are doing.