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A data breach occurs when confidential information is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or altered by an individual unauthorized to do so. It may involve credit card numbers, personal health records, corporate intellectual property, national security matters or personally identifiable information (PII). The consequences can be huge for a small business and even more devastating for a large enterprise.

While a data breach can occur anywhere, it’s most common in the healthcare industry because cybercriminals have easy access to patient data through unprotected systems or stolen passwords and credentials. Other popular targets include universities with plenty of PII, research and intellectual property and less cybersecurity awareness among students.

For those affected by a data breach, they must notify law enforcement, change all exposed passwords, monitor their bank accounts for fraud and invest in credit monitoring services. For businesses, a data breach can lead to lawsuits and financial loss, as well as damage to their reputation.

The most important thing to remember is that a data breach takes time and money to recover from. The sooner you take the three key sountermeasures—containment, eradication and recovery—to heart, the quicker your business can resume normal operations.

First, you must contain the incident by taking all compromised equipment offline and preventing further information leakage. You should also monitor all movable storage devices such as laptop hard drives, backup tapes and thumb drives. Remember that a hacker will likely retrieve the PII or corporate intellectual property from these devices, so securing them is crucial.