What is a Data Breach? Definition & Examples

A data breach occurs due to a cyberattack that allows cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to a computer system or network and steal the customers' personal, confidential, and financial data.

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What is a Data Breach? Examples in 2022. Keep Your Privacy Well

What is a Data Breach?

Are you sure that all confidential internal information in your company is secure? Popular sources of data leaks are about to test the operativity of your analysis and making decisions.

Each corporation has a lot of internal information that circulates exclusively inside of it. Some preliminary reports, production documents, stocktaking reports, and invoices usually never get outside the company. And the majority of this documentation carries nothing valuable - what would you do with the pack of invoices of Apple inc., if you are not an employee of that company? Probably, you will just check it a bit - just because of simple interest and then throw it away (or delete, if it was in electronic form). However, not all documents are so useless - check the text below.

Data breaches (or data leakages) are when one or several mentioned documents are leaked outside the company, and somebody who has no relation to the company can check it. This situation may occur for various reasons - human factors or problems with the document flow security. The consequences, however, may vary, too - from nothing to bankruptcy.

Which data is for sale?

The first thing you need to understand is that something that is not valuable for you may have great value for somebody else. If you are not a financial analyst, there is no use in the preliminary quarter results of a particular company for you. Meanwhile, a man or woman who knows how to interpret these digits will be highly interested in something like this. Such papers gain even more value if they are the first person “from outside” who reaches this document. If the company is about to release its earnings report, and you have this report leaked - it is effortless to predict the reaction of its stocks price and have a good profit on it.

Another sort of information, which is valuable for interested persons, is operating information of some sort. When you can see the information about some internal transactions, amount of new devices this company is planning to produce, possible notes about the financial situation inside of the company, it is straightforward to use it for your profit. Even if you know nothing about financial analysis, a note like “We need to get a debt restructuring, or our co is about to go bankrupt” will give you a pretty explicit instruction. At least, you may sell this information to a third party and get a pretty hefty profit.

Leaks of some secret information are pretty rare but carry the most hazard for the company and its employees. Primarily, private information turns only in companies employed in aerospace and defense or some innovative industries. So, for example, it will be a pleasant surprise for the spies to get some blueprints of a new fighter constructed by Boeing. Another example is calling the datasheet for a new battery type developed by Tesla - EV-makers worldwide will be happy to see the detailed documentation.

How does it happen?

Common cyberattacks used in data breaches include the following:

It is pretty easy to detect the possible point of the leak, especially if you devote enough time to controlling your employees and the computer network in the corporation. The majority of data breaches happen because of the actions of your employees. Even when we talk about the cyberattack - with ransomware or spyware injection, it is pretty easy to understand that those viruses do not appear out of the blue. Someone opened a strange email or launched a hack tool of some sort - and this is enough for malware injection.

Sometimes, people in your staff are just the dispatched agents of other companies. Such a situation is a sure sign that you must make some severe changes in your recruitment policy. It is pretty easy to detect such a spy and prevent its activity if you do it immediately.

For instance, thanks to these agents, Microsoft received a tremendous amount of information about the window interface at the early stages of its development in Apple. Later, Gates' company applied these developments in the first version of Windows. But, of course, Apple couldn’t leave such an incident without the attention - and started legal action against Microsoft due to the illegal use of patented stuff.

The examples of malware-related leakages can be met massively in the last five years. First, you probably heard about the cyberattacks on corporations - viruses encrypted their files and stole many internal corporate data. Then, this information is sold on the Darknet - the info obtained in such a way can barely be sold without anonymity.

The Biggest Data Breaches in 2022

Facebook 2021 500 million records According to information security experts, back in 2019, cybercriminals exploited a vulnerability related to the Add a Friend function, which allowed them to gain access to phone numbers. This bug has been fixed long time ago. The same leak has been posted on the darknet for free.
LinkedIn June 2021 700 million records Data associated with 700 million LinkedIn users was posted for sale in a Dark Web forum on June 2021. This exposure impacted 92% of the total LinkedIn user base of 756 million users.
Sociallarks January 2021 200 million records Sociallarks, a rapidly growing Chinese social media agency suffered a monumental data leak in 2021 through its unsecured ElasticSearch database. The breached database stored the scraped data of over 200 million Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin users.
Bonobos January 2021 12.3 million records Men’s clothing store Bonobos suffered a data breach in 2021 after a cybercriminal compromised its backup server containing customer data. This database was not connected to Bonobo’s private data, which was siloed for protection. But threat actors could still exploit the stolen information.
MeetMindful January 2021 2.28 million records MeetiMindful, a dating app focusing on the mindful community, was breached by a well-known hacker by the name of ShinyHunters. Breached MeetMindful data dumped on dark web hacker forum.
Pixlr January 2021 1.9 million records A database of 1.9 million user records belonging to online photo-editor Pixlr was dumped on a dark web hacker forum by notorious cybercriminal ShinyHunters. The data was stolen when the 123RF data breach occurred.

Consequences of the Data Breach

As already mentioned, people could make a good profit using or selling the leaked data to a third party. Cybercriminals who got the data in an outlaw way often ask the company for the additional ransom for keeping the stolen data unpublished. Financial losses may be recovered, in contrast to reputational ones, so corporations usually pay for keeping their secrets.

Usually, after a data leak, the management of the company starts searching for a guilty person. Finding a scapegoat is a bad idea: if the HR department missed a potentially hazardous person (who had similar cases in the past), it must work hard on its recruiting policy. Blaming the only man or woman is useless - even if this person is a source of a leak, it is evident that such cases must be prevented in the future. And it is better to stop all possible “spies” earlier than they can even reach the internal information. Terrorizing all of your employees, restricting their Internet access or external storage devices usage is less effective in all senses.

Of course, sometimes, these restrictions are reasonable. For example, removable drives are a perfect career for various viruses, so the limits of their use are pretty logical. However, setting the firewall will not stop the viruses (they can easily disable it) but brings a lot of discomfort into the working process. On the other hand, genuinely motivated employees will never procrastinate on Facebook or Twitter, so if you have done good work on the stage or recruiting - there is nothing to fear.