Future Tense

Americans Are Getting Apathetic About Huge Data Breaches

Roughly 76 million households could be affected by the huge cyberattack.

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The latest entry in America’s catalog of staggeringly large data breaches is not a retailer but a bank. JPMorgan Chase says that the names and contact information of about 76 million households have been compromised following a two-month cyberattack this summer. To put that into context, the Wall Street Journal reports that the extent of the breach is “equivalent to two-thirds of American households” and also includes 7 million of JPMorgan’s small-business customers.

Lest JPMorgan Chase account holders begin to panic, the bank is assuring customers that hackers were not able to gain access to account numbers, user IDs, passwords, Social Security numbers, or even dates of birth. JPMorgan says its customers’ money is safe and that it has not seen any “unusual fraud activity” since the attack. Customers are not being advised to change their passwords, and should any unauthorized transactions materialize, they won’t be held liable.

These massive attacks have become unsettlingly common. Just last month a hack was disclosed at Home Depot that at last count had compromised the credit cards of 56 million customers. That of course followed last year’s huge attack on Target, which affected the credit and debit cards of 40 million people and the personal information of 70 million. Jason Oxman, chief executive at the Electronic Transactions Association, says that in 2013 fraudulent credit charges totaled $5.5 billion in the United States. “It’s absolutely the case that financial institutions are looking for this kind of thing all the time,” Oxman says.

But whereas Target’s breach had long-term negative effects on its reputation, much less has been made of the Home Depot lapse. As for JPMorgan? It’s stock was trading up 2.4 percent on Friday afternoon. Much as we’ve become desensitized to hearing about auto recalls, Americans seem to also have begun tuning out news on data hacks. “Sadly, I think we’re getting immune to it,” says Rush Taggart, chief security officer at CardConnect. With the hacks growing bigger, more frequent, and more sophisticated, the country might want to reconsider its mindset.