Over the past 15 years, New Jersey has been hit by 269 data breaches affecting about 150 million user records and causing $22 billion in damages, according to a report by Comparitech.com.

Consumer privacy expert Paul Bischoff said that the data breaches include corporate, government and medical records.

He said breaches typically happen because of carelessness rather than efforts by hackers to break into systems. Hackers can search for open, unsecured databases and then hold them for ransom.

To protect against a data breach, Bischoff advises people to minimize their digital footprint: Don't make accounts on every website if you don't need to and don't reuse passwords.

"If you're using the same password on a bunch of different accounts and one of those companies is breached and hackers get a hold of your password, they'll take your password and go try to log into a bunch of other accounts. This is a tactic called credential stuffing," said Bischoff. Many companies have been hacked this way.

Georgia is home to possibly the most infamous data breach in history: Equifax. In 2017, the Atlanta-based credit bureau announced a data breach involving 145.5 million Americans' names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and other pertinent information.

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