Study shows increase in online information thefts

NEW YORK — The number of Americans who say they’ve had important personal information stolen online is on the rise, a Pew Research Center report released Monday shows.

According to the January survey, 18 percent of respondents have had personal data stolen, such as their Social Security number or credit card or bank account information. That was up from 11 percent in a July 2013 Pew survey.

The percentage of respondents who had an online account compromised or taken over without their permission — such as for e-mail or social media — remained flat at 21 percent.


The survey was done after news broke of Target Corp.’s massive pre-Christmas data breach, but well before last week’s discovery of the ‘‘Heartbleed’’ bug, which has caused widespread worry.

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The Target breach resulted in the theft of 40 million debit and credit card numbers, along with the personal information of up to 70 million people.

It remains unclear whether hackers have been able to exploit Heartbleed, which went undetected for more than two years. The bug is caused by a flaw in OpenSSL software, which is used on the Internet to provide security for both websites and networking devices such as routers, switchers, and firewalls.

The Pew survey, conducted Jan. 23-26, polled 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Associated Press