Data breaches are becoming a real concern – But how do they occur?

Data breaches are becoming a real concern – But how do they occur?

Data breaches involve the compromising of personal and financial information, as well as internal business data, in the case of organisations.

According to IT Governance, there were about 5.1 billion breached records in 2021 – cyberattacks, data breaches, and ransomware affected a significant number of people and companies in the U.K. Thousands of corporations, hospitals, government institutions, and retailers have been the victims of cyberattacks in the past years, and data thieves don’t seem to stop. A recent report by CyberEdge also says that 80% of organisations have been victims of at least one cyber-attack. It looks like data thieves are consistently looking for new ways to compromise systems, but in reality, there are not so many methods to cause a data breach.

A data breach can be either intentional or accidental, but in both cases, individuals or companies end up with their important information stolen and compromised. Preventing such incidents has become an increasing need, but this won’t be efficient unless you understand what data breach is all about and what causes it.

Thus, read on to find out the most common ways data breaches occur!

Human error

Surprisingly (or not), most data breaches don’t happen as a result of someone acting maliciously. Human error is one of the top causes of data breaches. Some of the most common mistakes individuals make include sending sensitive information to the wrong recipient, using weak passwords, and sharing important account information. These mistakes are obviously unintentional, which means human error falls into accidental data breaches. We recommend paying particular attention to the content of an email before sending it – don’t include sensitive information unless you’re sure the receiver is a trusted source. Avoid sending documents containing bank account information, personal data, or any details that hackers might find helpful.

Misconfiguration is also a common cause of data breaches as more and more people tend to leave a database containing confidential information without a password restriction.

Everyone is predisposed to make mistakes (it’s human nature). Still, when it comes to the employees of an organisation or corporation, they need to receive proper education and training in this regard. If you’re running a business, consider training your staff on basic data security measures, explaining the risks associated with a data breach, and organising a regular meeting where you bring up this very issue.

Criminal hacking

Criminal hacking is, without any doubt, the most common cause of a data breach, but did you ever wonder why? We know that you may think about hacking about some sort of coding, but it’s not always the case – more often than not, those old and unpatched vulnerabilities like a lost or weak password expose you to cyberattacks. Stealing credentials doesn’t even involve any technical knowledge. Hackers can buy them on the dark web, crack them with a password-generating machine, find them written down, or simply deduct them. In the case of corporations, malware or SQC (structured query language) may be required since these can have an advanced security system. SCQ, for example, is a computer language used to elicit information from a database, but only experienced hackers can use it.

The best way to minimise the risk of these kinds of attacks implies building stronger passwords. Think about forming longer passwords and forget about details like your name or date of birth – these will be any crook’s first try. Consider instead using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, random words or phrases that no one will ever think to associate with you.

Social engineering

It’s similar to phishing, but we would say that it’s more elaborate. You probably heard of phishing, but social engineering sounds so formal that it’s less likely to think of it as a way to steal someone’s sensitive data. As it is also called, pretexting implies contacting the victim under false pretences to obtain critical information (regarding their financial account, in most cases). Pretexters can resort either to phone calls or emails – their purpose remains the same in each situation. That being said, if you ever receive a suspicious phone call or email in which you’re required to divulge sensitive information, we advise you to hang up the phone and block that number at once. The main difference between the phishing and pretexting approach is that the latter doesn’t involve duplicating a legitimate organisation or institution’s website.

Given that such techniques are so widespread on the Internet, you must get informed about the steps you can take if such an incident happens. First, you have to determine what personal data was compromised and change your passwords. If you’ve suffered serious losses, you can file a data breach claim and get compensation for the damage (material or psychological).

Physical theft of a data-carrying device

Everything from laptops, smartphones, tablets, CDs and hard drives may contain sensitive information, and that means you have to be careful where you keep them and what you keep on them. Hackers don’t always hide behind a computer – they can enter your house or work site, as well, especially if they’re not into coding or other kinds of data theft methods. The safest way to ensure they access your computer is by stealing it. Measures against malware or ransomware might be useless if someone manages to steal your data-carrying device, so what is to be done in this case? Organisations should focus on protecting physical records and devices and improving their security system to prevent unauthorised individuals from entering the building. Whether you’re an employer or employee, consider removing data-storing devices from the workplace and think about using encrypted cloud storage to minimise the risk of a data breach.

Insider misuse

Unlike human error, insider misuse is done intentionally by an authorised user, generally for personal gain. Although it’s difficult to predict who the malicious actor is, you can start with some simple practices: trust only your family members and close friends. If you’re running a business, limit access to critical data so that only your most trusted employees can access vital data.

With these practices, you’re less likely to become the victim of data breaches, so take them into account next time you want to strengthen your data privacy (which should be now, seriously!).

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