Data breaches encompass any sort of incident in which an unauthorized party gains access to information.
Why do data compromises occur? How common are they? And how can an organization take steps to prevent data breaches?
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The most common causes of data breaches, according to cybersecurity risk platform UpGuard, include:
Most intentional hacking attacks—71%—are financially motivated, according to Verizon. Hackers may also commit cyberattacks for purposes of corporate or government espionage, sabotage, vandalism, server disruption, revenge, or reputation-building. Data breaches can also occur due to human error, such as a worker accidentally sending information to a party that is not authorized to view it.
All organizations should be wary of hacking and other incidents that can compromise the security of the data they store. However, the likelihood of a successful cyberattack (that is, one in which the attacker manages to break through security measures to capture the targeted data) isn’t equal across all companies and organizations.
A data breach is more likely when a company doesn’t have adequate security measures in place.
Reducing costs is a common goal for all kinds of organizations, from for-profit companies to nonprofit organizations and even government agencies. When an organization skimps on its information security measures, though, it is taking a big risk that can end up financially harming not only the organization itself but also its customers.
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The surest way to reduce an organization’s risk of being the target of a data breach is to put in place satisfactory security measures and continually keep these measures up to date to protect against evolving forms of cyberattacks. Organizations that hire qualified professionals to set up and maintain strong security measures are less likely to suffer a successful data breach.
An organization can’t control the illegal actions of a cybercriminal, but it can control how easy or appealing a target its system is by investing in adequate security measures.
Data breaches are alarmingly common, and the frequency of these serious information security incidents is only growing. In 2021, 1,862 data “compromises” were reported across the United States, according to the national nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center.
That figure represented a significant increase in data breach events, both over the previous year and over the previous all-time record. The number of data breaches reported for 2021 was up 68% over the number of data breaches—1,108—in 2020. It also outstripped the previous record-high year for data compromises, 2017, by 23%.
To put this number in perspective, an average of five data breaches occurred every single day in 2021.
Data breaches aren’t rare. Organizations should treat data breaches as the very real, very common, and very serious threats they are. That means making effective and proactive efforts to protect the data in their possession.
The proportion of companies that have experienced some sort of data breach or data security event is startling.
Different sources report different figures, largely due to the differences in the way they characterize incidents and the sizes and types of organizations they study. What is consistent is that all of the research reported shows that data security breaches are a widespread and pervasive problem that affects a large share of organizations.
According to the research reporting website StudyFinds.org, 45% of software developers and business professionals polled reported a “major data breach” of their companies within the last five years. Around one-third of these breaches were “inside jobs”—internal thefts of data performed by employees or other members of the organization. Further, 29% of respondents admitted that their companies use “unprotected production data,” or actual consumer data, in software testing environments. This practice can be risky, making consumer data vulnerable to theft and unauthorized access.
Statista reported that in 2021, 74% of survey respondents from large companies in the U.S. and 61% of small businesses in the U.S. reported a data breach (the size and extent of which were not specified).
The Insider Data Breach Survey 2021 from software company Egress found that 94% of U.S. and U.K. companies surveyed reported experiencing an insider data breach over the past 12 months.
How are these massive percentages possible? Keep in mind that, while data breaches affecting major, household-name corporations get the most media attention, small businesses are particularly prone to data breaches because they have fewer financial resources to devote to network and information security. There were 31.7 million small businesses registered in the United States as of 2020, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the data hackers stole was managed by a big company or a small one. Either way, your sensitive personal information is now in the hands of a criminal.
Each individual data breach may leave a large quantity of data vulnerable. The total number of consumers affected by data breaches in the United States in 2021 was 212.4 million, according to VPN service company Surfshark. That was an increase of more than 20% over the 174.4 million users affected by data breaches the previous year.
If you recently received a letter indicating that your information was compromised through a data breach, it is crucial that you take the steps necessary to protect yourself. At Console & Associates, P.C., our data breach lawyers help you to better understand what is at stake after a data breach and what your legal remedies are. We work with law firms across the country to provide the most resources and expertise possible to help ensure that your case is successful.