When a data breach or cyberattack compromises an employee’s identity information, the impact on the individual is clear. Recovery takes time, money and often an emotional toll on victims.
What might be underestimated is how their employers are affected. Giving employees the tools to protect their identity information in the wake of a breach — even those that occur elsewhere — can help boost organizational security.
What’s interesting is that for those in the public sector, helping employees ensure their identity safety can also reduce the risk of fraud faced by the organization
Last year saw the most data breaches in history, and the public sector was the second most victimized industry sector with 3,326 reported incidents in 2021.
Yet the impact of identity crimes on benefits programs, educational institutions and government agencies is not limited to the breaches that originate within the public sector. On the contrary, the personally identifiable information (PII) stolen in third-party breaches is frequently used for traditional and synthetic identity fraud, which is when real and fictitious details are combined to create a new, fake identity.
Whether stolen or created, these identities are used to file fraudulent applications for lending programs or collect illicit unemployment benefits. In 2021, this resulted in losses of $87 billion in unemployment benefits, $10 billion in tax fraud and financial crimes and over $1 billion in SNAP benefits.
When individuals actively safeguard their personal information and are alerted to signs that their identity has been stolen, they are more likely to detect issues quickly and take immediate corrective action. Those steps mean their identity are less likely to be misused for security attacks or fraud that targets the organization.
A public sector organization can be directly impacted by an employee’s stolen identity, regardless of where the data compromise occurred. Organizations will usually experience lost productivity as employees are distracted by the financial loss ($930 on average) and need to spend up to 600 hours to restore their identity.
The security risk to the organization also becomes much more pronounced if the compromised data includes login credentials that can be used to access office systems.
In response, savvy organizations in both the private and public sectors are adding identity protection services as an employee benefit. They understand it helps reduce the risk to their staff while simultaneously reducing the potential impact identity crimes have on their organization. In fact, a recent survey of HR executives revealed an estimated 78% of employers plan to add ID protection as a benefit this year.
Polling reveals that 46% of Americans say they wouldn’t know what to do if their identity was stolen. For public sector programs and organizations, this lack of knowledge creates an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their staff. So, in addition to helping protect staff and reduce organizational risk, the goodwill shown can breed greater loyalty and trust in the organization that, in turn, can help retain valuable employees.
Given the public’s increased interest in identity protection, public sector organizations that offer personalized, proactive and holistic protection services as a benefit or program feature have the opportunity to build trust and prove value to their employees and constituents.
The newly released 2022 Digital Safety and Security Report for the Public Sector is designed to give public sector officials insights to help them meet those expectations.