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How Does a Data Breach Happen?


A data breach is a continuing risk with long-lasting repercussions, including financial, legal, and reputational. All entities - governments, corporates, healthcare providers, and individuals - storing or handling sensitive data are susceptible to breach attempts. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) held by these entities is in high demand on the dark web.

Gartner predicts that around 30% of critical organizations will suffer at least a breach by 2025. As organizations storing PII and sensitive data surge, there will be a corresponding increase in attack vectors and vulnerabilities and hackers out to exploit them to steal data.

What is a data breach?

A data breach is a cybersecurity incident triggered by external attackers or malicious insiders to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information and steal data. Though hackers attempt to steal sensitive information like PII, medical records, financial information, password database, etc., the motive differs from attack to attack. Mostly, hackers leak the stolen data publicly or sell it on the dark web.

What are the reasons for a data breach?

A data breach can happen due to many reasons; some are:

  • Application vulnerabilities

Cybercriminals love poorly-written software and web apps. Misconfigured networks and poorly implemented application security measures leave gaps, which the attackers exploit to crawl into the system and steal sensitive credentials from the database.

  • Insecure data in transit

Adversaries can intercept in-transit unencrypted data within the network (intranet, extranet, or internet). If the systems or the cloud services do not deliver uniform cloud security and end-to-end encryption, attackers can snoop in and steal sensitive information transmitted in plain text.

  • Physical attack

Insecure data centers or enterprise perimeter is also a reason for a data breach. Enterprises should provide robust physical infrastructure and security as a primary means to secure data against attacks. If an adversary manages to crawl into the perimeter by tailgating and other social engineering techniques, they can steal sensitive corporate details and leak them or sell them.

  • Insider threats

Rogue employees or insiders, who have access to enterprise data, can leak information or tie up with adversary groups to sell internal secrets and customer details to malicious third parties. Such a data breach is difficult to determine or identify.

  • Malware and backdoors

Social engineers and phishers use psychological manipulation to mislead employees into making mistakes. This way, they deploy the malware into the corporate systems. The malware can spread within the network & secretly steal all sensitive data from the infected systems. Attackers with access to corporate networks and systems also deploy a persistent backdoor to access the system in the future.

What kind of damage can a data breach cause to an organization?

A data breach can unleash a flurry of consequences; some are:

  • A data breach can cause revenue loss. According to some

    studies, 29% of businesses end up losing revenue after facing a data breach.

  • Data breach leads to bad publicity, causing long-term brand reputation loss. It hampers customer trust and affects all plans of the organization.

  • Massive data leakage, damaged reputation, and revenue loss are catastrophic. Cybercriminals also try to steal intellectual property, blueprints, business strategies, and other critical documentation through a data breach. Losing such essential documents or intellectual properties can impact business competitiveness.

  • Companies also incur additional costs in the form of legal fines and regulatory levies because of the disclosure of sensitive information.

Protecting enterprises from data breaches

  • Enterprises should enforce role-based access control (RBAC) to specify who gets access to what corporate resources depending upon the role in the company.

  • Continuous remote monitoring is another way to prevent data breaches. Such an approach helps security professionals keep an eye on resource accessibility, internal threats, and malware deployment.

  • Companies should train and educate their employees to use ethical approaches and not open unknown links/emails or download attachments that are not from trusted sources.

  • End-point security and IAM solutions are efficient methods to prevent end users and corporate systems from data breaches. Modern end-point solutions and IAMs also leverage AI to detect malicious patterns and behaviours within the network.

  • To provide enhanced security from data breaches, companies and organizations should seek the guidance of security experts like Packetlabs.


A data breach causes immense harm to a company's financials, reputation, and prospects. One of the most effective ways to prevent a data breach is by improving security by finding vulnerabilities and remediating them. Companies can hire ethical hackers to reveal inherent vulnerabilities and act on their advisories to bolster security. For more effective solutions to improve security, contact Packetlabs.

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