What is a Data Security Breach?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

A data security breach is an incident in which data is obtained by unauthorized sources, sometimes as part of some type of identify theft scheme or corporate espionage. Breaches may take place when a computer hacker manages to break through the security measures implemented by a company to protect its electronic data, or when someone who is part of the organization chooses to secure the information and offer it for sale to competitors or other interested buyers. This type of cybercrime can create significant losses for companies as well as individuals and is extremely difficult to recover from even over the long term.

Incidents where credit card information has been stolen by hackers are considered data security breaches.
Incidents where credit card information has been stolen by hackers are considered data security breaches.

In terms of identity theft, a data security breach may involve using malicious software to collect individual information that is ultimately used to drain bank accounts or to create new credit accounts that are subsequently exhausted by the hacker or the entity that purchases the information from the hacker. This information may include government-issued identification numbers like driver’s license data, Social Security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers, and any other data that could be exploited for personal use.

Data security breaches are considered criminal activity and can result in a stiff jail sentence.
Data security breaches are considered criminal activity and can result in a stiff jail sentence.

Businesses are sometimes victims of a data security breach that involves the theft of client lists, formulas for copyrighted products, or even the financial records of the company. The data is often sold to a competitor who can use the data to develop products that draw customers away. With client lists, specifics about rates or contact information can often be exploited in a manner that makes it possible for the thief to entice customers to move to a different vendor or provider by offering pricing or other incentives that are not part of the current arrangements with the victimized company.

Social Security numbers may be the target of a data security breach.
Social Security numbers may be the target of a data security breach.

As more and more companies rely on electronic data storage for vital documents such as accounting records, customer and vendor contracts, and client lists, the need to employ greater safeguards against a data security breach has become more apparent. In order to keep the data safe, defenses that prevent outsiders from hacking into a company network must be strengthened. At the same time, steps must be taken to qualify who within the organization has access to what data, and periodically review the access privileges that are granted to those employees. Since hackers routinely come up with new ways to exploit weaknesses in different types of firewalls and other security measures, individuals and companies must constantly evaluate their security measures and update them to fend off the latest threats if they want to decrease the chances of experiencing a data security breach.

Viruses can cause a data security breach by digitally stealing personal information.
Viruses can cause a data security breach by digitally stealing personal information.
Data security breaches are often caused by hackers.
Data security breaches are often caused by hackers.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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