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A data breach occurs when sensitive information about an organization or its employees, customers, suppliers, partners, or the general public is exposed. The damage can range from financial losses to tarnished brand reputations. Regardless of the cause, organizations must react quickly to minimize further damage and loss.

How does a data breach occur?

Hackers use a variety of methods to obtain private data. These may include social engineering campaigns, directly exploiting vulnerabilities in the target system, purchasing stolen login credentials, or using malware that enables them to remotely access the network. Depending on the motives of the attacker, they will either sell the data or use it for malicious activities. For example, thieves who have a victim’s name and Social Security number can file fake tax returns and steal refunds, open new credit cards or bank accounts in the victim’s name, and even commit identity theft.

Employee errors and oversights also often contribute to data breaches. For example, an employee might misplace a device with confidential information or accidentally grant himself or others excessive data access privileges. These mistakes can also be a result of IT failures, such as a server malfunction or temporary outages, or may stem from the misconfiguration of cloud servers.

In addition to personal data, hackers also look for intellectual property. This can be anything from research and development data, product designs, or source code to sensitive business information such as financial projections, customer lists, or business plans.