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What Are the Most Common Causes of Data Breaches?

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What Are the Most Common Causes of Data Breaches?

Data breaches can cause massive financial losses, damaged reputations, and hefty fines. They can also leave sensitive information exposed to the wrong people, which is why it’s essential to understand what causes data breaches so you can prevent them from happening to your business.

One of the most common causes of data breaches is weak passwords. These are easily hacked into and can give hackers access to your company’s networks and sensitive information.

Human Error

Human error is one of the most common causes of data breaches. A 2020 IBM report found that data breaches caused by human error cost businesses an average of $3.33 million.

According to the study, human errors are caused by employees’ lack of action or unintentional actions that allow a security breach to occur. This can result from employee burnout, a change in routine, or other factors influencing the employee’s ability to perform their duties efficiently.

Employees can also make mistakes while performing their job duties because they need more skills or experience to complete a task correctly. This is called skill-based error, and it’s essential to understand what these errors are so that you can proactively mitigate them.

Skill-based error is often the most costly of all human errors because it allows hackers to gain access to sensitive information. This type of error includes employee mistakes while completing routine tasks or using public Wi-Fi networks containing sensitive information.

Other examples of human error in cybersecurity are rule-based errors and knowledge-based errors. The former is when an employee fails to follow a set of rules and performs the wrong action or fails to take enough care when completing a task. The latter is when an employee makes a decision that may compromise sensitive data or systems.


Malware is software created for malicious purposes and is designed to disrupt or harm devices, data, and networks. It can include viruses, worms, Trojan horses, adware, and ransomware.

Most malware infections are caused by users clicking on infected links in email attachments or visiting malicious websites. However, hackers can also spread malware through peer-to-peer file-sharing services and free software download bundles.

Cybercriminals use malware to steal personal and sensitive information from computers, smartphones, and tablets. They use a variety of tactics to do this, including social engineering and phishing attacks.

They often exploit vulnerabilities in unpatched software applications, allowing them to infect systems. Some malware enables attackers to encrypt sensitive data, while others lock down strategies and demand ransom payments to unlock them.

Ransomware attacks affected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide. Yet, it would have never happened if the computers had been patched before the infection occurred.

In addition to stealing personal information, malware can encrypt confidential business data and sabotage business operations. These attacks can be devastating, causing downtime and data leaks. Some malware can even be used to steal intellectual property and sell it on the dark web.

Insider Abuse

Insider abuse, a common cause of data breaches, occurs when someone with unauthorized access to corporate information steals and sells it. It can be caused by malicious actors and disgruntled employees who see a chance to cause damage.

While this type of attack can be challenging to identify and prevent, there are some ways that you can protect your company’s sensitive information from insider threats. These include compartmentalizing files and systems, making it harder for individuals to gain unauthorized access.

Another way to protect your company’s data is to ensure that you have up-to-date antivirus software installed on all computers. This will help you to detect and remove malware quickly and keep your data safe.

The third way to protect your data is to restrict access to it. This is especially important if it contains highly confidential or sensitive information.

One of the most common ways to uncover insider abuse is to look at logs. Logs can provide evidence of a person’s access to corporate information, including their network logins and logouts. They can also contain references to the resources they accessed and their applications.

Physical Theft

Whether it’s your laptop or an external drive, theft of your computer equipment is one of the most common causes of data breaches. It’s especially damaging for small businesses that rely on portable technology to get their jobs done, as these devices are easy targets for thieves.

Theft of mobile devices is another common cause of data breaches, as hackers can easily take advantage of unsecured devices and access sensitive information. This can include work emails, passwords, and private information.

Thieves also can steal virtual machine (VM) contents. This is particularly dangerous since VMs are usually stored as files that can be copied to other devices.

Social engineering attacks are a popular way for hackers to access systems. These attacks often use psychological manipulation to trick people into sharing their passwords or other important information.

This attack is prevalent and involves hackers trying to break into systems via email, SMS, phone calls, and social networks. These attacks can often steal personal or financial data such as bank account numbers, online passwords, passport details, and other sensitive information.

Physical security is often overlooked by organizations that focus primarily on cybersecurity, but it’s one of the most common causes of data breaches. Investing in security features like CCTV cameras and keycard access, as well as adequately training employees to follow policies, can help prevent physical threats from leading to data breaches.

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