Editorial

Huge leap in leaked data records in 2020

Thirty-seven billion data records were leaked in 2020, a growth of 140 percent, says data analysed by Atlas VPN – with healthcare one of the hardest hit industries

Posted 2 March 2021 by Christine Horton


Thirty-seven billion data records were leaked in 2020 – a 140 percent leap from 15 billion records in 2019.

The figure is drawn from data analysed by Atlas VPN  based on the 2020 Year End Data Breach QuickView Report by Risk Based Security.

Most – 82 percent or more than 30 billion of data records — were compromised in only five major breach incidents. All of them were a result of misconfigured databases or services.

The most exposed type of data were names, leaked in 46 percent of data breaches last year. Next up are email addresses, which were compromised in 32 percent of incidents.

While leaked records reached never-before-seen highs in 2020, the number of actual data breaches fell by 48 percent. It went down from 7,553 breaches in 2019 to 3,932 in 2020.

In total, 77 percent of data breaches last year were caused by outside actors, 16 percent by insider threats, while the rest is unknown. What is more, 676 breaches last year included ransomware as an attack element — a 100 percent rise compared to 2019.

Healthcare hacks

The healthcare sector suffered the most, dealing with more data breaches than any other sector. In 2020, the healthcare industry faced 484 hacks, which account for 12 percent of all last year’s breaches.

The information sector was also highly targeted. It suffered 429 hacks, which made up 11 percent of data breaches last year.

Rounding out the top three industries in terms of data breaches last year is the finance and insurance sector.  In 2020, the industry faced 382 hacks — 10 percent of last year’s breaches.

“All in all, the year 2020 has taught us that it is hard to predict what the future holds for cybersecurity,” said Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN. “In a single year, breached data files more than doubled, reaching record-high numbers, as did the number of hacks that included a ransomware component.


“However, there were fewer actual data breaches reported. It suggests that data breaches are growing in severity, with fewer incidents exposing more personal information than ever before.”