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Data Breach occurs when personal identifiable information (PII) is lost, stolen or modified by unauthorised means. PII is information that can identify an individual such as names, addresses, phone numbers and email address. This could include passwords and login details for online accounts, financial data like bank account or credit card details as well as personal medical information.

Depending on the type of information stolen, a breach can have devastating consequences for individuals and organizations. Hackers can use this data to steal money or other assets, run scams or blackmail and expose confidential information that would compromise people’s privacy (like the Ashley Madison dating website). For businesses, it can lead to loss of customers, damage to reputation and even fines from regulators.

A common way that hackers access sensitive information is through breaches of unsecured websites or systems. These can be anything from a doctor accidentally looking at the wrong patient’s record to a government agency leaving a huge amount of classified information vulnerable to attackers.

Other ways that hackers access data is by physically skimming points of sale, where they scan and copy card details or through phishing, where cybercriminals send emails to individuals posing as a company representative. In the most serious cases, breaches can include unauthorized modification, deletion or exfiltration of information, including through physical destruction, loss or theft of portable devices, office computers or files. If there is a high risk that someone’s rights and freedoms may be adversely affected by a breach, the GDPR requires that it is promptly notified to individuals by the organisation.