Most Common Causes of Data Breach and How to Prevent It

Which are the most common causes of a Data Breach and how to prevent It? How can organizations prevent it?

Data breaches are highly damaging and equally embarrassing for businesses and

consumers. If you look at Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, you can

find some of the most common causes of data breaches. However, you will also be

surprised to learn that most breaches result from inadequate data security measures.

Let us look at some of the most common causes of data breaches and ways to prevent


Physical Actions Lead to Data Breaches

A small percentage of all the data breach incidents occur because of physical actions

that don’t involve technology. For instance, the theft of devices like laptops, storage

devices, smartphones, or paperwork can lead to data breaches. Most of us are working

from our homes because of the pandemic. We might not go out too much, but it is

typical to take laptops or smartphones everywhere we go. If you fail to safeguard your

devices against theft, the chances are higher that you’ll fall prey to data breaches. You

have to stay vigilant against physical thefts, which can lead to financial losses as well.

Unauthorized Access

Members of an organization or an employee might get unauthorized access to sensitive

consumer data or business information. There’re also instances where employees were

found to be involved in privilege abuse. The information that an employee accidentally

discovered was used illegally or at times even unknowingly. Often employees ended up

sharing, copying, deleting, and even editing data they weren’t authorized to.

Malware Attacks

Hackers and cybercriminals often launch malware attacks to achieve their malicious

goals. Some of the most popular ones include RAM scraping, wherein the memory of

targeted devices is scanned for collecting sensitive information. Some malware attacks

install tools like keyloggers to capture the keystrokes for stealing passwords or other

sensitive information.

Social Engineering

It’s been found that almost one-fourth of the data breach is carried out by using social

engineering. Fraudsters often act as though they belong to a particular organization or

business and then extract sensitive data from unsuspecting users. One common

method used for social engineering is phishing, wherein cybercriminals send legitimate-

looking malicious emails intended to extort sensitive financial data.

The fraudsters also use phone calls, WhatsApp messages, and even SMS to trap their

victims. You can easily prevent such misuse of data by providing very little information

and completely refrain from sharing any financial data with unknown entities.

Human Error

A data breach is often a result of human error, including data sharing with wrong

individuals, weak passwords, and more information than needed. Well, if you’re a

regular online shopper, the chances are higher that you sign up with multiple online

stores and service providers to buy products and services.

It’s equally valid that you also fill up various online forms on the pretext of getting some

attractive discounts. Now, most of these forms ask for too much information, and

usually, we don’t give a second thought before filling them. Now, this data can end up in

the hands of people who can use it in any possible manner, legal or otherwise. Thus,

the only way to prevent such unwanted data breaches is to ramp up internal network

security and carry out network security audits from time to time.

In some cases, the data we provide online can also leak due to unsecured connections.

For instance, if you supply information to a website using HTTP, anyone willing to listen

can likely steal that data.

Additionally, many Wi-Fi connections are, unfortunately, rather unsafe. Take public Wi-

Fi hotspots as a cautionary tale. Many of them allow traffic to travel unencrypted,

meaning that both network managers and other people nearby can see what you are

doing. A security recommendation is to use a Virtual Private Network. A VPN app is an

easy-to-use solution that will encrypt information about your traffic. Thus, it ensures that

your connection is always safe, regardless of the circumstances.


Well, this is the top reason behind approximately half of the data breaches in the world.

From SQL injection to DDoS attacks, a wide range of methods has been used to hack

into secure networks and steal critical data. Hacking attempts can be prevented by

beefing up network security and using the latest network security tools for identifying

and stopping brute force attacks.

The defense against data breaches includes several things:

Companies need to apply the necessary security measures. They must educate their employees about cybersecurity, social engineering, and

phishing. Employees should only have access to information that is critical for them. Consumers should be wary of their data as well. They can protect their

connections and choose to supply companies with as little information as


However, most data breaches happen in a rather unfortunate scenario. Frequently,

hackers discover databases that are not protected adequately. Then, it is relatively easy

to steal such information. It might include anything from names to private photos or

video footage. Thus, it is extremely important for businesses to be vigilant about how

their data is stored online. In many reported cases, data breaches could have been


Author Bio Anas Baig: With a passion for working on disruptive products, Anas Baig is currently working as a Product Lead at the Silicon Valley based company – He holds a degree of Computer Science from Iqra University and specializes in Information Security & Data Privacy.

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Follow me on Twitter: @securityaffairs and Facebook

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, data breach)

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