Wired reports loss or theft of personal data like credit card and social security numbers has soared to unprecedented levels last year.
And while companies, government agencies, schools and other institutions are spending more to protect ever-increasing volumes of data with more sophisticated firewalls and encryption, the investment often is too little too late.
"More of them are experiencing data breaches, and they're responding to them in a reactive way, rather than proactively looking at the company's security and seeing where the holes might be," said Linda Foley, who founded the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center after becoming an identity theft victim herself.
Foley's group lists more than 79 million records reported compromised in the United States through Dec. 18. That's a nearly fourfold increase from the nearly 20 million records reported in all of 2006.
Another group, Attrition.org, estimates more than 162 million records compromised through Dec. 21 - both in the U.S. and overseas, unlike the other group's U.S.-only list. Attrition reported 49 million last year.
"It's just the nature of business, that moving forward, more companies are going to have more records, so there will be more records compromised each year," said Attrition's Brian Martin. "I imagine the total records compromised will steadily climb."