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A data breach, also called a data leak, is a security event in which confidential information is exposed, stolen, or transmitted. When a data breach occurs, the leaked information is often exploited by hackers for personal gain. One way that criminals use such information is through the illicit practice of identity theft. In this article, we discuss how data breaches place people’s personal information at risk. 

Ways that Data Breaches Occur

There are several ways that data breaches occur, including: 

Insider leaks: An insider leak occurs when a person with access privileges to a system, such as an employee, uses his or her credentials to commit cyber theft. When an employee commits cyber theft, the employee can be held responsible for the breach. 

Software or hardware exploitation: Hackers can exploit out-of-date software to steal customer data. In addition, some criminals use credit card skimmers at point-of-sale terminals to capture and transmit sensitive credit card information.

Malware attacks: Data thieves are notorious for their success at using phishing and spam emails to trick recipients into downloading malware attachments or visiting compromised websites. When a recipient downloads a malware attachment or visits a dangerous website, this enables hackers to access the recipient’s computer, which in turn may result in the exposure of confidential information. 

Password exploitation: Weak passwords are another common cause of data breaches. Hackers routinely exploit people’s tendency to use weak passwords to access private information. In addition, to exploit the common practice of reusing the same password for multiple sites, cybercriminals engage in a practice called credential stuffing, which takes a database of stolen usernames and passwords and automatically attempts to stuff the credentials into other applications.

Drive-by downloads: A person can unintentionally download a computer virus or malware simply by visiting a compromised website. When this occurs, the recipient puts his or her entire computer network at risk. 

Types of Information at Risk 

Most, if not all, major businesses store customer information digitally. Unfortunately, all this information is at risk when a data breach occurs. Although customer names and email addresses are the most common types of information exposed in data breaches, hackers sometimes gain access to more damaging types of information, including:

  • Dates of birth
  • Phone numbers
  • Email passwords
  • Website passwords
  • Social Security numbers 
  • Home mailing addresses 
  • Tax ID numbers
  • Credit card and bank account numbers 
  • Health insurance information
  • Investment information 
  • Utility account information

Contact a Consumer Class Action Attorney Today! 

If you are a victim of identity theft, you need an experienced consumer class action attorney in your corner. Identity theft often occurs due to the negligence of institutions that store your personal information. If an institution has leaked your personal information, our attorneys will work hard to ensure that you obtain financial compensation for your losses. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.