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How do data breaches occur?

In 2022, Australia experienced an unprecedented surge in cyber-attacks, witnessing the highest number of data breaches in contrast to earlier years. In today’s digital era, where data reigns supreme, the threat of data breaches has become an increasingly alarming concern for businesses and individuals alike.

Cybercriminals are continuously discovering innovative methods to breach systems and acquire confidential data, resulting in substantial monetary and reputation lossToto safeguard your company against these intrusions, it’s vital to understand how data breaches occur, allowing you to take steps to manage a data breach should it happen and thwart future assaults.

The impact of data breaches on businesses

The consequences of a data breach can be far-reaching and long-lasting, affecting both businesses and individuals in many ways. Understanding the potential impact of these events can help drive home the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and prompt action in the event of a breach.

For businesses, the financial ramifications of a data breach can be staggering. The cost of responding to and recovering from a breach, including legal fees, public relations efforts, and potential fines, can quickly add up. The average cost of a data breach in 2022 was $3.35 million per breach. Moreover, businesses may also suffer from lost revenue and customers as a result of reputational damage and diminished trust in the aftermath of a breach.

The different ways data breaches occur

The term data breach is often used as a catch-all phrase to describe any security breaches where unauthorised individuals gain access to sensitive information. However, not all data breaches are created equal, and understanding the various types can help us better comprehend the methods and motivations behind these cyber-attacks.


One of the most common types of data breach is hacking attacks, where cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in a system’s security to gain unauthorised access. These attacks can take many forms, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and brute force assaults.

Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are a common method used by cybercriminals to obtain login credentials or other sensitive information. These attacks involve sending fraudulent emails or other communications that appear to be from a legitimate source, often prompting the recipient to click on a link or download an attachment that leads to the exposure of their information.

Insider threats

Insider threats represent another significant type of data breach. These breaches occur when individuals with legitimate access to sensitive information misuse their privileges for malicious purposes or personal gain. Insider threats can be particularly challenging to detect and prevent, as they involve individuals who are already trusted within the organisation.

Physical theft

Physical theft or loss of devices containing sensitive information, such as laptops or mobile phones, can also lead to data breaches. This type of breach may not involve sophisticated cybercriminals, but can still result in significant harm if the lost or stolen device contains critical data.

Malware and ransomware

Malware and ransomware attacks involve the use of malicious software to infiltrate a system and gain access to sensitive data. Malware can be delivered through phishing emails, malicious websites, or other means, and often operates covertly to avoid detection. Ransomware, a specific type of malware, encrypts the victim’s data and demands payment in exchange for the decryption key.

Human error

Finally, human error plays a significant role in many data breaches. Mistakes such as sending sensitive information to the wrong recipient, opening a malware-infected email, misconfiguration of security settings, or failing to apply necessary software updates can all lead to unintended data exposure. While these breaches may not involve malicious intent, they nonetheless underscore the importance of proper training and awareness in preventing data loss. Employee training and cybersecurity awareness programs can significantly reduce the risk of human error leading to a data breach. Providing employees with the knowledge and tools to recognize and report potential threats, as well as reinforcing the importance of following security best practices, is a key aspect of preventing data breaches.

Weak or stolen credentials

Cybercriminals can exploit weak passwords, reuse of passwords across multiple accounts, or gain access to login information through phishing schemes or other social engineering tactics. Implementing strong authentication measures is a critical step in preventing unauthorised access to sensitive data. This may include the use of complex, unique passwords, multi-factor authentication, and biometric authentication methods.

Outdated or unpatched software

Cybercriminals often target known vulnerabilities that have yet to be addressed with updated security patches. Keeping software up-to-date and applying patches promptly can help protect against known vulnerabilities and exploits. Regularly monitoring and addressing potential security risks is an essential component of a robust cybersecurity strategy.

Network security gaps

Flat networks have the potential if breached to allow lateral movement rapidly across the network, increasing the attack surface exponentially. Network segmentation and access control policies can help limit the potential damage of a breach by restricting access to sensitive data and systems to only those individuals who require it for their job duties. Regularly reviewing and updating network security can assist in maintaining strong security measures.

Staying secure in a data-driven world

The threat of data breaches is an ever-present reality in our increasingly digital world. Understanding the how and why behind these incidents is essential to developing effective strategies to prevent them and minimise their impact. By partnering with the security professionals at Intelliworx and ensuring the protection of your crucial information in a constantly changing risk environment.

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