Data security has become an increasingly important issue for consumers and business owners alike. People that want to use the internet to shop and communicate worry that their private or financial information can be leaked to hackers, and businesses worry about the negative effects to their business if they are the subject of such a cyber attack.
But with all this concern, are businesses and brands getting better at protecting customer data. Some recent studies on the subject shows that business owners and consumers should do more to protect online data.
As people and program work to make websites and passwords more secure, there's evidence to suggest that cyber criminals are remaining one step ahead of the security protocols put into place by webmasters.
Google recently released a report with a sobering statistic. In 2015, Google saw a 180 percent increase in the number of hacked sites on the web. This rise can be attributed to a lot of thing such as using outdated web platforms. And many spammers have used the resulting security flaws to launch malicious code onto a site without the site owner or the visitor noticing the change.
"A huge amount of legitimate sites are hacked by spammers and used to engage in abusive behavior, such as malware download, promotion of traffic to low quality sites, porn, and marketing of counterfeit goods or illegal pharmaceutical drugs, etc.," says Ning Song, a Google software engineer.
For all the amount of time Google puts into ensuring that search results are accurate by fighting black hat SEO and web spam, a large portion of that time is spent dealing with hacked sites. According to Google, the company sent more than 4.3 million messages to webmasters about manual actions taken on their sites in 2015.
In 2015, Google sent more manual actions for hacked sites than anything else. This is actually a good thing because it gives webmasters a chance to fix their sites and make them more secure. Google reports seeing a 33 percent increase in the number of sites that went through spam clean-up efforts towards a successful reconsideration process.
However, web spam is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential damage caused by poorly secured sites. Since many consumers, against the advice of experts, use the same login/password combinations for multiple sites. If hackers are able to get into the poorly secured site, they may find the passwords for more secure sites. This is why you shouldn't use the same password for your online bank account as you do for the log ins on KittensRUs.com (which is not a real site; somebody should get on that).
While this password advice is nothing new, a recent report from the Guardian showed just how poorly this advice was being followed. According to an article in Reuters, the Wisconsin-based security firm, Hold Security, used their connections to get a hold of a list of stolen credentials that had been taken via a variety of means. Hold Security is famous for obtaining hoards of stolen data from the hacking underworld and in this release they persuaded a fraudster to give them a database of 272 million unique email addresses along with the passwords consumers use to log in to websites.
This data shows that's worth it for webmasters to build sites that require strong passwords, and have their security platforms updated regularly. This may be annoying for customers who hate having to remember or think of new passwords, but it's less annoying that dealing with the repercussions of a data breach. Part of what make a company authentic to consumers is how well the brand handles the consumer's personal information.
For more information about internet security and consumers, read this article about hacked sites.