There were 4,145 publicly disclosed breaches that exposed over 22 billion records in 2021, approximately 5% fewer than in 2020. 

According to the 2021 Year End Report: Data Breach QuickView, by Risk Based Security and Flashpoint, additional incidents continue to surface. It is typical for the number of breaches disclosed for a given year to subsequently increase by 5% to 10% as the data matures. Assuming this pattern continues, 2022 is expected to at least match the 2021 breach count, and potentially exceed it by as much as 5%. 

The number of records exposed during the reporting period exceeded 22 billion. While this is 14.5 billion fewer records exposed than in 2020 (the year that set an all-time high of 37.2 billion records exposed), it is the second-highest year for the amount of confidential data compromised since 2005.

In addition, the number of breaches reported in the United States increased 10%, growing to 2,932 in 2021 compared to 2,645 in 2020. Names and Social Security numbers (or their non-U.S. equivalents) were the two most compromised data types. Payment card information, which has become less attractive to malicious actors, was compromised in only 3% of reported breaches.

Not surprisingly, the Healthcare sector experienced the most breaches in 2021, followed closely by the Finance and Insurance sector. While landing at the top of the chart for most compromised economic sectors is not an enviable position, it is important to put the breach count into context. While Healthcare topped the list, the industry accounted for only 14% of reported breaches. Likewise, Finance and Insurance accounted for 12.5% and Government, taking third place, accounted for only 10% of breaches. A closer examination of the Healthcare sector reveals that practitioners' offices contributed 40% to the sectors' total, with hospitals accounting for 28%, other facilities coming in at 19% and social services rounding out the sector, contributing 13% of the breaches.

Interested in learning about the top data breaches of 2021? Check out Security magazine 2021's top 10 data breaches and exposures, and a few other noteworthy mentions.