When secure information is leaked or released unintentionally into an unprotected environment, there has been a data breach. By definition, a data breach has occurred when secured, sensitive or information that is otherwise confidential has been viewed, copied or stolen by an unauthorised person.
According to experts at Private Rights Clearing House, there are millions of data breaches annually and they occur due to a number of reasons – from a deliberate cyber attack or a lost piece of hardware to the incorrect disposal of computers or data storage devices.
A data breach is often a deliberate attempt to access the financial details of individuals. Many secure servers carry the card or bank details of members of the public, and this information can be used to steal money from individuals, to set up fraudulent bank accounts, or to buy illegal items or access illegal websites. It is entirely possible for innocent people to have the unwelcome knocking of the police, or a bailiff, at their door due to the misappropriation of a credit card, debit card, or bank account details. With these, loans can be obtained without their knowledge, and after several months of receiving no payment, a loan company will soon send someone round to collect their money.
Every day, people put personal information into online forms, and this information is typically stored on secure servers. From addresses to health information, there is no shortage of personal data out there. Additionally, people have images and videos in storage, and the consequences of this data being accessed can vary from embarrassment for celebrities to a glut of unwelcome junk mail or email spam.
The potential for the misuse of personal data is immense, and there is no shortage of unscrupulous potential buyers for it. Every nuisance call, spam email, and glossy junk mail pushed through the door is as a result of personal data being stored on a server somewhere. It would be naïve to assume it has all been obtained legitimately.
Whilst there are already a number of legally available databases that companies can access for a fee, there will always be someone looking for a cheaper option or for more data, and it would be easy to forget to ask where data has come from.
Businesses worldwide rely on secure servers to store everything from designs and product ideas to secret recipes. In the extremely competitive corporate world, any leaks of intellectual property can give competitors an edge. For tech companies, leaked design specifications and plans can give pirate companies the plans to simply copy designs and flood the market with their cheap versions of any given product.
Deliberate cyber attacks on corporations can cost millions, and are happening with increasing regularity. Corporations do all they can to prevent cyber attacks and the loss of data. It is, after all, a part of modern business, and protecting proprietary intelligence continues to be a high priority.
A complex issue
Data breaches continue to be a complex issue. Whilst much of the activity is aimed at gaining financial information, this is certainly not where it stops. Peoples’ lives are now stored on servers across the globe, and there is an army of unscrupulous soldiers seeking to access it. Whether it is obtained through carelessness or a deliberate attack is unimportant; what matters is getting at the data. For individuals and corporations, protecting that data is of utmost importance.