What are Data Breaches?

A data breach is when a user who does not have permission accesses a data source. Then extracts sensitive digital info, thus compromising the data.

Also called “unauthorized access”, data breaches are a type of cyber attack. These security incidents threaten the safety, privacy and integrity of information. And cause damage to people, society and businesses alike.

The most common kind of data breaches, according to Symantec are of personal info. Or, form jacking. This is when a cybercriminal loads a malicious code onto a retailer’s website. Then steals shoppers’ credit card info. There are over 4,800 of these per month.

But data breaches also destroy electronic info with the goal of disrupting businesses. So, they use tactics like spear phishing and supply chain attacks. Or deploy malware to delete files.

Why do data breaches occur?

Data breaches happen for a few reasons and are on the rise. For one, cybercrime makes lots of money for attackers. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime will cost the world over $6 trillion annually by 2021.

That’s up from $3 trillion in 2015 and totals more than the illegal global drug trade. Cyber crime is also becoming more complex and larger scale. This due to the increasing number of human and digital targets. And the much bigger job of protecting them.

Some data breaches may be accidental. You click on a link and it takes you to a phony site for instance. But most targeted attacks happen in one of four ways.

  • System weakness caused by outdated software
  • Weak passwords that are easy for a hacker to guess
  • Drive by downloads that happen if you visit a compromised site and end up with malware or a virus
  • Targeted tactics like phishing, spam and emails with bogus links

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