Thieves know: there's money in credit cards.

Credit card numbers are still the hottest items stolen in data breaches, far surpassing debit card numbers and Social Security numbers, according to data from Javelin Strategy & Research.

The research also supports reported increases in all types of data breaches across a broad range, including advanced persistent threats from malware that has no known signature or pattern of behavior (see story).

The rise in major data breaches could eventually undermine consumer confidence in payment cards, some observers warn (see story). 

In an online survey of 5,000 consumers conducted in October 2011, Javelin found that the total number of all consumers that identified themselves as data breach victims rose to 15% from 9% in 2010.

Consumers who received a breach notice from a company warning them of the possibility that some of their sensitive data may have been exposed had a higher chance of eventually learning they were indeed victims of theft, Javelin's data show.

Among survey respondents who received such a letter, 19% eventually learned they were victimized in a data breach, Javelin said. Only 2% of fraud victims said they did not receive such a letter.

Credit card numbers continued to be the commodity stolen most often in a data-breach, according to Javelin's research.

Among respondents who said they were affected by a data breach, credit card numbers accounted for 43% of data lost, compared with 44% in a similar survey conducted in 2010, Javelin said. Debit card account numbers were exposed in 22% of breaches both last year and the year before, survey data suggest.

Social Security numbers were compromised in 16% of data breaches in 2011 compared with 17% in 2010, while checking account numbers were compromised in 9% of data breaches last year, down from 12% in 2010.

About 2% of respondents also reported their PlayStation Network account details were compromised last year. Sony Corp. temporarily took down its PlayStation Network in April 2011 after it determined that the online video game system suffered a security breach (see story). 

Subscribe Now

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the payments industry

14-Day Free Trial

Authoritative analysis and perspective for every segment of the industry