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In the U.K., companies, organisations and individuals are bound by Data Protection legislation to handle and store personal data safely and securely.
Today, almost all personal data is digitalised in one way or another. From transferring money on our online banking accounts to posting a picture on our social media platforms, we’re constantly using the internet to store and share information. In return, we expect our banks and social media platforms to keep that information safe.
Unfortunately, where there is data, breaches will always be a threat.
It’s up to the companies, organisations and individuals to take action to ensure cybersecurity measures are in place to prevent breaches and mitigate the damage if a breach ever occurs. Data breaches range from unauthorised and malicious third party hacks to simple administration errors like not hiding recipient email addresses in a newsletter.
For third party data breaches, entities can no longer afford the luxury of ignorance and should always expect a data breach to occur. This is one of the best ways they can attempt to set up security measures to protect any system vulnerabilities.
For accidental data breaches, organisations also need to set up security steps so there are certain barriers from accidentally tripping up, and the NHS is constantly under fire for these types of data breaches. The 56 Dean Street data leak saw hundreds of HIV patients have their email addresses exposed to each other when a newsletter was sent without hiding the recipients’ information. Whilst these are very different types of data breaches, one thing remains the same: the victims are exposed.
Victims of data breaches are commonly associated with the following risks:
However, looking more closely, data breaches do not only put the victim at material risk but can also have adverse psychological impacts:
Quite often, victims of data breaches will lose all trust and confidence in the entity that compromised their information. This can have a stronger impact than first thought as companies whose consumers don’t trust them may not be sustainable. Large companies who destroy customer trust can see their shares plummet as their investors also lose confidence. In a modern world where almost everything relies on information, a loss of trust can create a chasm that’s not only harmful to the general economy but to the consumer themselves.
Studies found that patients who suffered data breaches are more reluctant to provide healthcare information to hospitals in case they leak or lose it. Whilst their caution is understandable, withholding information can mean doctors and other healthcare providers are not equipped with a full and accurate picture, and this may adversely affect quality of care.
The Australian government was recently scrutinised for having a vulnerability exploited by cyber-criminals where they had no idea they’d been hit until some of the personal information surfaced on the dark web. Many were livid over how the breach was handled as the Australian government reportedly failed to reassure people by taking action to mitigate the impact of the breach, and didn’t immediately start patching up vulnerabilities to stop it from happening again.
Companies, organisations and individuals can learn from mistakes by taking the steps necessary to prevent breaches, such as:
|Install security systems to prevent unauthorised data breaches.|
|Run penetration tests to check for vulnerabilities (and then patch them up if any are found).|
|Install security protocols for employees to follow in order to mitigate the chances of an accidental data breach.|
|Encrypt data or use any other method to scramble data so that it’s not in plain text if leaked.|
|Put in place a ‘trip wire or alert system’ to notify data controllers immediately of data breaches.|
|Reassure data victims by updating them about steps taken post-data breach.|
|Offer advice and perhaps security software to help protect victims.|
|Identify the vulnerability and upgrade security for better strength.|
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