Dec 7, 2023 - Technology

Apple report finds steep increase in data breaches, ransomware

Illustration of a ransom note made of binary numbers.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Data breaches and ransomware attacks are getting worse. Some 2.6 billion personal records have been exposed in data breaches over the past two years and that number continues to grow, according to a new report commissioned by Apple.

Why it matters: Apple says the escalating intrusions, combined with increases in ransomware means the tech industry needs to move toward greater use of encryption.

By the numbers: According to the report, prepared by MIT professor emeritus Stuart E. Madnick:

  • Data breaches in the US through the first nine months of the year are already 20% higher than for all of 2022.
  • Nearly 70 percent more ransomware attacks were reported through September 2023, than in the first three quarters of 2022.
  • Americans and those in the UK topped the list of those most targeted in ransomware attacks in 2023, followed by Canada and Australia. Those four countries accounted for nearly 70% of reported ransomware attacks.
  • One in four people in the US had their health data exposed in a data breach during the first nine months of 2023.

The big picture: Apple for its part, touts its strategies of encrypting as much customer data as possible and minimizing where possible what information is collected.

Yes, but: While encryption and data minimization can be effective data protection strategies when adopted widely, the fact that Apple encrypts its copies of user data doesn't help iPhone and Mac users when another company is breached.

Go deeper: Why "don't pay ransom" pledges are so hard to implement

Editors note: This story has been corrected to reflect that there were nearly 70 percent more ransomware attacks reported through September 2023 than in the first three quarters of 2022 (not in the entire year).

Go deeper