The latest data breach predictions by IDC analysts do not make for pleasant reading. If the data breach predictions turn out to be true, 1.5 billion individuals will be affected by data breaches in the next 5 years.

Companies being targeted by cybercriminals looking to steal consumer data

U.S. companies are being increasingly targeted by foreign cybercriminals. European businesses are similarly suffering more cyberattacks. In fact, companies all over the world are being attacked by criminals looking to gain access to consumer data. It is now no longer a case of whether a data breach will be suffered. It is now just a case of when a data breach will occur.

Companies must therefore be prepared. They must implement a host of security defenses to prevent cyberattacks from occurring, and need to make it harder for hackers and other cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive data. Failure to take action and implement multi-layered cybersecurity defenses will see a data breach suffered sooner rather than later. A breach response plan must also be devised to limit the damage caused when an attack is successful.

Data breach predictions for the next 5 years

The number of data breaches being suffered by companies all around the world has grown considerably in recent years, and the situation is unlikely to change. Based on the current levels of attacks, and the volume of data now being stolen by cybercriminals, IDC analysts made some bleak data breach predictions this month.

They expect that by the year 2020, a quarter of the world’s population will have had data exposed as a result of cyberattacks. That’s 1.5 billion individuals!

IDC also predicts that consumers will increasingly take action when their data are exposed. In fact, we are already seeing consumers boycott brands that have suffered major cyberattacks. Many consumers who previously shopped at Target for instance, have switched retailers following the massive data breach suffered in 2013.

In the UK, many consumers are switching broadband and mobile phone provider after TalkTalk was hacked by a group of teenagers this year. In the United States, there has been considerable fallout as a result of the massive data breaches suffered by Anthem Inc., and Premera Blue Cross. Customers have switched their health insurance to companies that they believe will take better care of their health data.

Data Breach predictions for healthcare organizations

Many cybercriminals have switched from targeting retailers for credit card data to healthcare providers and insurers for Social Security numbers and health information. The value of health data is much higher than credit card information. Once a credit card has been stolen, consumers rapidly shut down their accounts. Credit card companies are on the lookout for suspicious activity and block cards quickly. Healthcare data and Social Security numbers on the other hand can be used for months or even years before identity theft and fraud are discovered. Cybercriminals can use healthcare data and SSNs to defraud individuals and obtain tens of thousands of dollars before fraud is even detected.

The value of healthcare data, combined with the relatively poor defenses put in place by many healthcare organizations, has seen cybercriminal activity increase. The volume of healthcare data breaches has grown considerably over the past few years. Those data breaches are unlikely to stop in the foreseeable future. IDC’s healthcare data breach predictions for next year are bleak. Its analysts expect one in three Americans to have their healthcare data stolen in 2016.

113 million healthcare patients had their data exposed in 2015

The company’s data breach predictions are unlikely to be far off the mark. According to figures from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, the agency charged with policing healthcare organizations, over 154 million healthcare patients and health insurance subscribers have had their healthcare data exposed since data breach reports were made public in 2009.

Almost 113 million of those healthcare records were exposed this year. That’s 73% of the total number of breach victims created in the last 7 years! If anything, IDC’s healthcare data breach predictions are overly conservative!