According to the results of a recent Alertsec survey of 1,200 U.S. residents, 97 percent of respondents said data breaches "unsettle" them and result in negative brand perception.

Almost a third (29 percent) of respondents said it would take them several months to begin trusting a company again following a data breach.

And while 22 percent of respondents said it would only take them a month to forgive the company, 17 percent of men and 11 percent of women said their trust in the company would be lost permanently.

Sixteen percent of men and six percent of women are likely to switch to a competitor following a data breach.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said a data breach reflects sloppiness, 32 percent said it reflects a lack of professionalism, and 26 percent said it makes a company a target for lawsuits.

"People's personal information is, in many ways, the key to their financial and psychological well-being," Alertsec CEO Ebba Blitz said in a statement [PDF]. "When a company has allowed their customers' data to fall into the hands of criminals, the resulting lack of trust is difficult to repair.

When they learn that a company has been breached, 67 percent of respondents said they check to see if their information or identity has been compromised, and 35 percent worry about their information even if they're not directly connected to the affected company.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said learning of data breaches prompts them to focus on improving their online security.

When asked what actions companies should take in response to a data breach, 81 percent of respondents said the company should inform all those affected, and 72 percent said the company should immediately invest in new encryption technology.

According to the latest findings of Gemalto's Breach Level Index, the number of data breaches increased by 15 percent in the first six months of 2016 over the last six months of 2015.

There were 974 reported data breaches and more than 554 million compromised data records worldwide in the first half of 2016, compared to 844 data breaches and 424 million compromised records in the previous six months.

The leading type of data breach in the first half of 2016 was identity theft, accounting for 64 percent of all data breaches, up from 53 percent in the previous six months -- and malicious outsiders were the leading source of data breaches, accounting for 69 percent of all breaches, up from 56 percent in the previous six months.

"In this increasingly digital world, companies, organizations and governments are storing greater and greater amounts of data that has varying levels of sensitivity," Gemalto vice president and CTO for data protection Jason Hart said in a statement.

"At the same time, it is clear that data breaches are going to happen and that companies need to shift from a total reliance on breach prevention to strategies that help them secure the breach," Hart added. "That is why more focus needs to be understanding what really constitutes sensitive data, where it is stored, and using the best means to defend it."

A recent eSecurity Planet article offered advice on selecting the right threat risk model for your organization.

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