A data breach is a term used to describe an incident in which sensitive, confidential or protected information is accessed, viewed, stolen or used by an individual or organisation without the knowledge or consent of the data owner (more on this later).
In today’s digital age, where personal and business data is stored and transmitted electronically, data breaches have become a prevalent and growing concern. Not only do they put individuals and companies at risk of identity theft and financial fraud, but they can also damage reputations and result in costly legal and regulatory penalties. This is why it pays to learn about the types of phishing scams and other forms of cyberattacks.
In this article, we will explore what a data breach is, how it happens and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
Table of Contents
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is an unauthorised access or acquisition of sensitive, confidential, or protected data. This can include personal information, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and medical records, as well as business information like financial data, trade secrets and intellectual property.
Data breaches can occur in a variety of ways, including hacking, phishing, social engineering and accidental exposure.
How Data Breaches Happen
Data breaches can happen in a variety of ways, but some of the most common include:
- Hacking – When an individual or group uses technical means to gain unauthorised access to a computer system or network, that’s hacking. Hackers can use a variety of methods, including exploiting software vulnerabilities, using malware or guessing passwords.
- Phishing – This occurs when an individual or group uses social engineering techniques to trick individuals into providing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial info. It can be done through email, text message or phone.
- Social Engineering – When psychological manipulation comes into play, that’s social engineering. Cyberattackers may trick individuals into providing sensitive information or performing actions that compromise security. It can also be done through email, text message or phone.
- Accidental Exposure – There may be occasions when sensitive info is inadvertently exposed (e.g., through an unsecured server or an employee mistakenly emailing sensitive information to the wrong person).
Preventing Data Breaches
While data breaches are becoming more prevalent, there are steps that individuals and organisations can take to prevent them from happening. These include:
- Implementing strong passwords and regularly updating them
- Installing and regularly updating security software
- Backing up data regularly
- Educating employees about best practices for security
- Restricting access to sensitive information
- Using encryption to ensure your data is protected both in transit and at rest
- Regularly monitoring for suspicious any activity
- Keeping software and systems always up to date with the latest security patches
- Using multi-factor authentication
Data breaches are a growing concern in today’s digital age, putting individuals and organisations at risk of identity theft, financial fraud, reputational damage and other attacks.
By understanding what a data breach is, how it happens and what steps can be taken to prevent them, you’ll be in a better position to protect your institution and even your customers and employees from the damaging effects of a data breach.