16.67% more Middle East data breaches in 2016 compared to 2015


  • Approximately 45.2 million Middle East data records compromised in 2016
  • Globally, 1.4 billion data records were compromised in 2016
  • 7bn+ data records exposed since 2013


Middle East data breaches are up 16.67 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, according to the findings of the 2016 Breach Level Index (BLI), released by Gemalto, the world leader in digital security. Besides, nearly 45.2 million data records were compromised compared to 38.5 million in 2015, across the Middle East region.

Identity theft, most common data breach

Globally, 1,792 data breaches led to almost 1.4 billion data records compromised worldwide during 2016, an increase of 86 percent compared to 2015. Identity theft was the leading type of data breach in 2016, accounting for 59% of all data breaches. In addition, 52 percent of the data breaches in 2016 did not disclose the number of compromised records at the time they were reported.

The BLI is a global database that tracks data breaches and measures their severity based on multiple dimensions, including the number of records compromised, the type of data, the source of the breach, how the data was used, and if the data was encrypted. By assigning a severity score to each breach, the BLI provides a comparative list of breaches, distinguishing data breaches that are a not serious versus those that are truly impactful (scores run 1-10).

Data breaches reaching all-time high

According to the BLI, more than 7 billion data records have been exposed since 2013 when the index began benchmarking publicly disclosed data breaches. Breaking it down that is over 3 million records compromised every day or roughly 44 records every second.

“The Breach Level Index highlights four major cybercriminal trends over the past year. Hackers are casting a wider net and are using easily-attainable account and identity information as a starting point for high value targets,” said Sebastien Pavie, Regional Director, MEA, Identity and Data Protection, Gemalto.

“Clearly, fraudsters are also shifting from attacks targeted at financial organisations to infiltrating large data bases such as entertainment and social media sites. Lastly, fraudsters have been using encryption to make breached data unreadable, then hold it for ransom and decrypting once they are paid,” added Pavie.

Data breaches by type

In 2016, globally, identity theft was the leading type of data breach, accounting for 59 percent of all data breaches, up by 5 percent from 2015. The second most prevalent type of breach in 2016 is account access based breaches. While the number of this type of data breach decreased by 3 percent, it made up 54 percent of all breached records, which is an increase of 336 percent from the previous year. This highlights the cybercriminal trend from financial information attacks to bigger databases with large volumes of personally identifiable information.

Data breaches by source

Malicious outsiders were the leading source of data breaches worldwide, accounting for 68 percent of breaches, up from 13 percent in 2015. The number of records breached in malicious outsider attacks increased by 286 percent from 2015. Hacktivist data breaches also increased in 2016 by 31 percent, but only account for 3 percent of all breaches that occurred last year.

Data breaches by industry

Across industries, the technology sector globally had the largest increase in data breaches in 2016. Breaches rose 55 percent, but only accounted for 11 percent of all breaches last year. Almost 80 percent of the breaches in this sector were account access and identity theft related. They also represented 28 percent of compromised records in 2016, an increase of 278 percent from 2015.

The healthcare industry accounted for 28 percent of global data breaches, rising 11 percent compared to 2015. However, the number of compromised data records in healthcare decreased by 75 percent since 2015. Education saw a 5 percent decrease in data breaches between 2015 and 2016 and a drop of 78 percent in compromised data records.

Government accounted for 15 percent of all data breaches in 2016. However the number of compromised data records increased 27 percent from 2015. Financial services companies accounted for 12 percent of all data breaches, a 23 percent decline compared to the previous year.

All industries listed in the other category represented 13 percent of data breaches and 36 percent of compromised data records. In this category, the overall number of data breaches decreased by 29 percent, while the number of compromised records jumped by 300 percent since 2015. Social media and entertainment industry related data breaches made up the majority.

Last year 4.2 percent of the total number of breach incidents involved data that had been encrypted in part or in full, compared to 4 percent in 2015. In some of these instances, the password was encrypted, but other information was left unencrypted. However of the almost 1.4 billion records compromised, lost or stolen in 2016, only 6 percent were encrypted partially or in full (compared to 2 percent in 2015).

“Knowing exactly where their data resides and who has access to it will help enterprises outline security strategies based on data categories that make the most sense for their organisations. Encryption and authentication are no longer ‘best practices’ but necessities. This is especially true with new and updated government mandates like the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, US state-based and APAC country-based breach disclosure laws. However, it’s also about protecting your business’ data integrity so the right decisions can be made on, your reputation and your profits,” Pavie pointed out.