How Data Breaches Happen

The idea of your network or systems being breached is a scary one. In the digital age, every piece of data imaginable is stored on a server, computer, or device somewhere, and the wrong people can access it. Cybercriminals actively look for ways to get in and steal your data, so it is important to understand how data breaches happen and what you can do about them.

What Is a Data Breach?

A data breach occurs when a cybercriminal makes it past an organization’s cybersecurity and gains access to sensitive personal and corporate data. This can happen where the data is stored, used, or in transit. A cybercriminal can do this by physically accessing the device or server the data is on or can remotely bypass network security to gain access.

Cybercriminals are methodical when it comes to their actions. The fulfillment of a data breach typically involves three steps:

  • Research – A cybercriminal will take the time to identify weaknesses in security to determine the best method of attack. These weaknesses can involve people, networks, and/or systems.
  • Attack – A cybercriminal gains access through either a network or social attack. A network attack can happen when there are weaknesses in an organization’s applications, systems, and/or infrastructure. A social attack occurs when employees are tricked into divulging sensitive information and/or login credentials.
  • Theft – Once access is gained, cybercriminals can go wherever they want in the network or system and extract the targeted data.

How Does a Data Breach Happen?

Data breaches can happen for many reasons, most of which are malicious. Here are the most common causes of data breaches and what actions you can take to reduce the chances of it happening to your company.


Whether it’s a configuration error or an employee sending sensitive data to the wrong person, mistakes can result in a data breach. The best way to mitigate this risk is to ensure that you have a strong security policy and team in place and that employees are properly trained.

Insider Threats

Disgruntled employees, unhappy contractors, and others who are given trusted access to your data can steal, copy, or change it. Have strict policies and permissions in place and require authentication to ensure users only have access to what they need and only as long as they need it. If you suspect a problem, suspend access until you are certain a user is safe.

Physical Attacks

A hacker can access your premises and your computer systems directly. Have strong physical security in place, ensure your servers are behind locked doors, and that all computers and devices have the highest security protection.

Application Vulnerabilities

If an application is poorly developed, there may be holes or weaknesses a hacker can use to break in. Ensure the design and coding of your applications are solid and that they are patched and updated regularly.


Malware is an increasingly popular way for cybercriminals to access your applications and systems. Train your staff to avoid clicking on links in emails and visiting websites that are not secure or are not what they appear to be.

Social Engineering

This is an attack where an email, text message, or other form of communication that asks for sensitive information is sent by a hacker but appears to come from a trusted source. Employee training is the best way to avoid this type of attack. Ensure employees don’t send the requested information without first confirming with the sender that the request is legitimate.

Weak Passwords

Weak passwords can be easily hacked. Have strong password policies in place that require long, complex passwords that are changed regularly. In addition, set up multi-factor authentication so there is more than one method required for a user to prove their identity.

Poorly Controlled Permissions

Cybercriminals can easily access sensitive data when access permissions are given out freely or are not changed when required. Keep tight control over the permissions and remove permissions when a user’s role changes or they leave the company, so you know users only have access to the data they need and only when they need it.

Data breaches are a serious threat to your organization. Protect your data, and you protect your reputation, your financial well-being, and, most of all, your customers and employees. Connect with Platinum Technologies today to find out how we can help you mitigate the risk of a data breach occurring in your organization.

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