The public sector is under attack, and not every threat is posed by a foreign government. This is especially true when it comes to data breaches and identity theft. In recent years, attacks on non-profits, government agencies, and other institutions within the public sector have skyrocketed. 

In today’s article, we’ll take a look at some of the most shocking statistics, analyze why there has been an increase in attacks, and look at steps we can take to better protect government employees. Let’s dive in! 

Notable statistics about identity theft and data breaches in the public sector

Of all industries and sectors, the government/military complex experiences the fourth-highest rate of data breaches. Last year alone, there were 22,778 security incidents and 304 confirmed data breaches in the public sector. From January 2017 to October 2017, 6 million government records were exposed. Of these recorded breaches, 41 percent were caused by insiders. 

This makes the public sector second to only the healthcare industry when it comes to most breaches caused by insiders. Of the 67 percent of data breaches that were caused by an outside factor, 44 percent were a direct result of espionage. While hacking was responsible for 52 percent of data breaches and security incidents, 32 percent were tied to social media. 

Why are government agencies so targeted? 

While government agencies are targeted for many reasons, we’ll focus on just three.

#1 Government agencies collect a wealth of information

Local, state, and federal governments are required to collect and store a treasure trove of data on each citizen. Consider how much information the IRS houses. Social Security numbers, addresses, work history, banking information, email addresses, etc. And that’s just one of the many agencies with which we must frequently interact. In addition to the types of personal details the government collects, the sheer volume of records they house is staggering. 

#2 This information is valuable to many criminals

Many criminals want access to the types of data public agencies collect. In addition to independently-operating hackers, many foreign governments sponsor hackers who target the U.S. government. Acquiring sensitive data about U.S. citizens is just part of their mission. State-sponsored hackers also hope to uncover government secrets foreign agencies can use to their advantage. 

Not every threat involves cyberespionage either. Many U.S.-based criminal organizations target government agencies. Additionally, not every threat comes from an outside agency. Many instances of public data breaches occur when a credentialed employee improperly accesses information — for personal gain or just to satisfy their own curiosity. 

#3 Government identity theft is one of the most popular forms of identity theft

Finally, when cybercriminals access government records, they stand to gain a great deal! 

In fact, government identity theft is now one of the fastest-growing forms of identity theft. That’s because government records can be exploited in many ways. One of the most popular involves tax fraud, which accounted for nearly half of all cases of identity theft in 2015. In addition to filing fraudulent tax returns, criminals can use a victim’s personal details to receive government benefits, apply for a job, and gain restricted clearance.

What steps can agencies take to protect their employees? 

With government employees targeted more than the average American, how can a public agency best protect their employees? 

The first and most important step begins with education. If you’d like to learn more about preventative actions your organization can take, consider utilizing an HR guide to employee data protectionguide-to-employee-data-protection.

If you’re a broker with clients in the public sector and you’d like to learn more about the dangers your clients face — as well as available solutions to protect them — you can download our one-page guide, How Identity Theft and Data Breaches Affect the Public Sector

It’s loaded with great information you can use today. 

Have further questions? That’s great, because we have the answers! You can call us anytime or send us an email. We’d love to show you how our 10+ years experience in the employee identity protection industry can help your business protect what really matters — your employees.