It is not for nothing that the age we live in is called the Data Age. Data defines the modern world. Data Science dominates all aspects of commerce, science & technology, and even religion and faith, these days. Much of this data is confidential, and can be disclosed only at the tragic cost of living and life itself. Nations guard against breach of their high-security data with the lives of their soldiers and citizens, while individuals try to protect their intimate and confidential data with their own persons. It is therefore essential for us to study this phenomenon, by trying to answer the question, what is a data breach?
The Value Of Data
The commercial world is perhaps the best example of the value of data, and the cost of data breaches. It is said that the very value of a company depends on its data, and its ability to secure this data. Recently, Target, a billion-dollar company specializing in Credit Cards, found that literally millions of numbers and internal data of credit cards were stolen, in the Q4 (Quarter 4) of 2013. The results were truly tragic. Furious customers savaged the reputation that Target took many decades building, and the customer count dropped sharply by over 10% almost immediately the news of the loss broke. The Quarterly results showed a precipitous drop of 16% in profits. Target is still fighting to regain its old glory, and may still not survive the ferocious competition in the market, with its reputation in tatters. And now, eBay is the victim of another massive Data Breach, and observers are waiting with bated breath to see what the future will hold for this behemoth of the online retail business.
Data Breaches Explained
But, what is a data breach? A Data Breach is defined as the deliberate, intentional, malevolent or even unintentional & accidental release of highly private, delicate and secure information to an environment that is untrustworthy, insecure or uncontrolled, or all of these, and so provide access to unauthorized individuals or groups for whatever purpose or profit that may be sought. The access of information without authorization can hurt business and consumers in numerous ways. It can damage the reputations and the lives of the sufferers immensely, sometimes irreparably. But that in itself must not surprise us. As we transcend the Digital World with the Data world next, impossible masses of potentially sensitive data now occupy our Data storages. Criminals can and do penetrate the Data Stores wherever they can, and are bent on creating the maximum damage. The most common target of these malevolent forces are personally identifiable information, such as full names, social security numbers and credit card numbers. Personal Finances figure as a close second. The huge corporations and monolithic business formats that are increasingly more popular these days in view of their efficiency and competitiveness, are the topmost targets to cyber criminals, because of the large masses of data that can be stolen at one go.
- Weak Passwords: The casual or careless use of hackable passwords make it easy for hackers to penetrate accounts. Whole words or phrases are a typical mistake, which hackers find easy to guess. Unique and complex passwords based on individual background experience or isolated memories are always far more difficult to hack.
- System Vulnerabilities: The use of outdated or outmoded software can itself create weak points for cyber criminals to exploit, and sneak in malware time-bombs for misuse at a convenient moment. They often target specific platforms in which users like anonymity such as adult apps and free local fuck sites. Such was the case with the highly publicized Ashley Madison data breach.
- Drive-by Downloads: The unplanned or unsolicited browsing of unknown websites, and downloading of software, application or browser that is not fully secured in advance or screened suitably, can result in this type of Data Breach, which can be quite murderous in effect.
- Targeted Malware Attacks: These attacks are the result of positive malevolent sources, that use phishing and spam and fake emailing tactics to penetrate the user’s guard. Avoidance of links with unfamiliar sources is a must. Once infected, malware can not only damage the computer it has entered, but also the links to which the computer subscribes, and spread the infection far and wide.
Some steps users can take take to cover themselves are:
- Strong and secure Passwords are a must. Consider using a password generator.
- Bank and other financial accounts must be monitored at regular intervals, and sometimes suddenly also, to detect any malfunction or strange behavior.
- Credit Reports must be checked regularly, and credit cards are bound by law to provide credit reports at least once every 12 months or on demand.
- The heart of modern communications is the mobile phone, and this must be secured immediately against Data Breaches.
- Maintain high security in choices of software, URLs, and files.
- File backup, and wiping Hard Disks are a must.
- Take instant action whenever a Data Breach is detected.