How do I know if I have been a Victim of a Data Breach?

Posted by Stefanie Kober Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:39:00 GMT

We sincerely hope that neither you nor your business is ever victim of a security or data breach. However, it has become distressingly commonplace, with studies suggesting that we are experiencing more incidents, more sources, and more variation than ever before. But how can you tell that you have become a victim?

What is a Data Breach?
Unless you’re an IT professional, it may be difficult to comprehend how identity thieves could take your personal information from a company. A data breach is a situation whereby sensitive, protected or confidential data is copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by an unauthorized individual. Generally, companies store personal information securely in databases and computer files that can only be accessed by authorized personnel. But data breaches, whether intentional or accidental, transpose personal information out of these safe, secure storage systems into the hands of criminals. For businesses, this not only impacts customers, but can damage a company’s reputation and brand.

How to Tell if You have Been a Victim of a Data Breach
Certain data breaches may take weeks for companies to detect, as was in the case of the2013 Target data breach. However, you would want to know immediately if you have become a victim of a data breach, in order to take the necessary steps to protect your assets as soon as possible. The following are some signs that you would want to look for:

1. Unauthorized transactions on your payment cards
This is probably the first sign that you have been a victim of a data breach. Commonly, identity thieves will test out your account with small amounts, which may go undetected if you were not paying attention, before taking out huge amounts. Unauthorized transactions could be your typical identity theft, and do not guarantee that you have been hit by a data breach. Regardless, you want to be on alert and start locking down your accounts.

2. A company that you’re a customer or employee of reveals that they’ve had a data breach
This indicates that you’re at risk, although this is not a sure sign that you were part of the data breach.

3. You are informed by the company that your personal information was part of a data breach
Most companies, after realizing that they have been subject to a data breach, contact all affected customers, giving them directions on how to proceed and assure them that the company was taking the steps to remedy the problem, thereby limiting the damage that has been done.

Of course, it is best to prevent such an eventuality from taking place, by implementing the necessary steps to prevent unauthorized access to your data, and not overlooking the physical security aspect. For businesses, knowledge of the multiple factors that affect the cost of data breaches can better prepare them to tackle data breaches.

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