What Are Data Breaches?
You may well have heard recently about data breaches involving a variety of different websites. However for many it’s not entirely clear what a data breach is. Put simply, data breaches occur when sensitive information makes its way out into an untrusted environment. A simple example of this is a list of usernames and passwords from a website being leaked online.
These data breaches can be down to a number of things. Sometimes it can be something as simple as an accident – from an employee misplacing a storage device or other hardware, to sending a document to the wrong recipient. However data breaches can often have a more menacing explanation. Hackers are willing to cause disruption to a service; a business it’s reputation and the online security of its users for their own personal gain, whether that is financial or a vendetta against the business. Some breaches are done with
Alongside this disgruntled employees still with a business can leak sensitive information; a business can simply have a weak system in terms of security or staff may not understand security protocols and their importance.
Examples Of Data Breaches
There have been a number of high profile data breaches in recent years – one of the biggest issues with them however, is that the breach occurred long before the public were aware and able to do anything to rectify the situation. Information on these has recently been appearing with alarming regularity some notable examples include:
- MySpace – one of the most popular social networks of its time, MySpace suffered a data breach from hackers all the way back from some point in time between 2006 and 2009. However this information only surfaced recently as it was discovered that hackers were attempting to sell emails and passwords of millions of users.
- Linkedin – another social network with a large data breach involving a number of user names and passwords. Again this was a situation that occurred in the past and was only revealed to the public in terms of the scale of the breach and number of users affected
- Ashley Madison – a different type of data breach to the previous two. Due to the nature of the site, this breach occurred when hackers looked to name and shame users of the website due to taking a moral stand about the activities involved with it.
There have been numerous leaks that have been publicised – whether they have involved personal details of consumers, internal information about a business or any other form of sensitive data. As the above examples show data could have made its way out long before anyone was fully aware it happened or of the scope of the situation.
Avoiding Losing Personal Information Due To Data Breaches
There is no guaranteed way to ensure that you don’t fall victim to an online data breach. The nature of them suggests that if someone wants to get this information for the purposes of selling it or extorting the organisation it was obtained from, then there are ways to do it. Similarly you can’t account for human error.
One of the key things you can do, especially as an end user to keep your own data from being breached and then it is very important to make sure that you have different passwords for different sites. Many people are willing to use the same for many sites, which is when a data breach causes issues as often passwords and usernames are leaked together.
Regularly changing your passwords is a good way to ensure that should your data leak, your information isn’t relevant to that which has leaked. A useful tool to make sure your data is safe is the website ”have i been pwned?“ run by Microsoft security expert Troy Hunt.