Report: One in seven U.S. consumers notified of personal data breaches in 2013

U.S. consumers are increasingly victims of data breaches in which their personal data is stolen -- with one in seven being notified that their personal data was breached last year, according to a survey released Thursday by Consumer Reports. But most, 62 percent, have done nothing to protect their privacy online, the survey found.

Consumer Reports projected that 11.2 million people fell for e-mail phishing scams and 29 percent of Americans online had their home computers infected with malware in the last year. (The study was conducted in January of this year by research company GfK for Consumer Reports and included interviews with 3,110 adults with home Internet access.)

It comes at a time when security experts are increasingly warning about the security of personal data online. In its recent annual threat assessment, cybersecurity firm Symantec called 2013 the year of the "megabreach"-- citing eight incidents in 2013 that each exposed the personal details of at least 10 million people.  According to Symantec, hacking accounted for 34 percent of breaches in 2013.

While the Consumer Reports survey paints a grim picture of users' efforts to protect themselves, other reports have suggested that people have been slightly more proactive about safeguarding their privacy. Last fall, a Pew Research poll found that 86 percent of Internet users have "taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints — ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email, from avoiding using their name to using virtual networks that mask their internet protocol (IP) address."

But still, the Pew study reported than more than half, 59 percent, of U.S. Internet users didn't believe it was possible to be completely anonymous online -- although 68 percent did not believe current laws are up to the challenge of protecting user data.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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