Cyber-criminals stole more information in 2008 than in the previous four years combined, according to a study published today.
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An estimated 285 million records were compromised in 90 confirmed data breaches.
Investigators said that fact that 17% of attacks were highly sophisticated and accounted for 95% of breaches proves that hackers are motivated and know where and what to target.
"Good security and a proactive approach are paramount to running a business in this day and age, particularly since the economic crisis is likely to trigger a further increase in criminal activity," said Peter Tippett, vice-president of research and intelligence at Verizon Business Security Solutions.
The study found that nearly nine out of 10 breaches were avoidable if security basics had been followed.
Hackers typically use default credentials or an improperly configured database to break into systems and install software to steal other access information.
Most of the breaches investigated did not require difficult or expensive preventive controls, the report said.
"Mistakes and oversight failures hindered security efforts more than a lack of resources at the time of the breach," the report concluded.