Over the years, millions of individuals have been affected by data breaches, where their sensitive data is accessed by unauthorized cybercriminals or publicly exposed. A data breach can result in huge financial loss if stolen data is used to compromise consumer identity, which also can affect a credit score.
Unfortunately, there is a great number of people who don’t know what to do if affected by a breach. At the same time, there are those in the know who do nothing.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is a cyber security incident that exposes sensitive data such as names, contact details, bank details, Social Security numbers, etc.
Data breaches are the work of criminals who aim to obtain specific data. Criminals do this through various methods, including phishing attacks, malware attacks, targeted attacks, vulnerability exploits, and loss or theft of devices. However, data breaches are also a result of technical or human errors. For example, a misconfiguration error exposed the car location data of 2 million Toyota customers in Japan and overseas for 10 years; and the work of an insider led to Tesla’s massive data breach.
Unfortunately, data breach cases keep rising. May 2023 alone saw numerous breaches from different organizations, including healthcare organizations, education institutions, the transportation department and even tech giants.
For companies, the consequences of data breaches are reputation damage, loss of consumer trust, intellectual property theft, financial loss and fines due to failure to conform with data protection legislation. While cybercriminals mainly target organizations, individuals also experience identity theft and financial crimes. This especially happens when stolen data is sold on the dark web or publicly published.
What action can data-breach victims take?
Unfortunately, no one is immune from a data breach. However, victims can survive a breach with less disruption. Once a data breach has occurred, the U.S. breach notification law requires businesses or governments to notify those affected immediately after its discovery.
Although companies are responsible for securing customer data in their possession, customers also have a role to play in securing their data. Essential steps to take include:
It is worth noting that data breaches are not detected immediately, which means that by the time users get notified, cybercriminals already have had access to the data for some time. And as technology advances, cybercriminals are taking advantage of new technologies such as generative AI for phishing attacks. This means that more data breaches may continue to be witnessed.
However, users can help prevent future data breaches by using strong passwords, being cautious of phishing scams, and regularly monitoring financial accounts.