How to know if data has been data breached

Before we look at identifying a breach in data, let us understand what is a data breach.

A data breach / account breach is an incident where information is stolen or taken from a system without the knowledge or authorization of the system’s owner. 

Stolen data or data breach may involve sensitive, proprietary, or confidential information such as credit card numbers, customer data, trade secrets, or matters of national security.

A data breach can cause major damage to the target company’s reputation due to a perceived ‘betrayal of trust’. Victims may also suffer financial losses depending on the kind of information stolen. 

Most of the data leakage, data thefts, and account breaches are attributed to incidents of hacking or malware attacks.

How Account Breaches Happen

However, some other methods of data breaches, account breaches that are commonly documented include:

Insider leak

Where data breaches, data leakage and account details are leaked out by someone working inside the company. A trusted individual or person of authority with access privileges steals data.

Payment Card fraud

Payment card

Use of physical skimming devices to steal Payment card information which is a form of account breach.

Loss or Theft

Loss or Theft of Physical devices like laptops, desktops, pen drives, and other physical properties, leading to data breach.

Unintended disclosure

 Done unknowingly through mistakes or negligence. Critical data gets exposed. 


In some cases the actual breach method is unknown, but causes several account breaches.

Once the types of Data Breaches / Account Breaches are identified, they are classified based on the effect they may cause.

How Data Breaches Happen

Now in the above identified Data Breaches, we can classify them as sampled below:

Insider leak – Reputation

Payment Card fraud – Financial 

Loss or Theft – Data & Financial

Unintended Disclosure – Reputation, Financial

Once these classifications are in place we can identify how to plug each area. 

Few Examples of Cyber-Attacks 

Cyber-attacks are known to cause data breaches, here are some areas that we need to watch out for. 


Malware Phishing Virus

Engineered to fool you into causing a data leakage and data breach. Criminals are coaxed into handing over access to sensitive information or the data itself.

Brute Force Attacks

Enlisting software tools to grab your passwords.


Flaws or security gaps within the operating systems that are exploited to grab information while being completely undetected. 

The Impacts of Data Breaches

The damage a data breach can do:

For business organizations – it can devastate the organization’s reputation and the financial bottom line.

In future, these organizations will be more known for the data breach, then the actual business operations they are into.

For Government organizations – compromised data can mean data leakage exposing highly confidential information to foreign parties.

Details related to Military operations, financial operations, political dealings, details on the essentials of the government that can lead to a national threat.

For individuals – Data leakage can reveal anything from social security numbers, credit card details, banking information and others.

These can result in illegal activities done under your identity.

How To Prevent Data Breaches

cybersecurity prevent ddos attacks

Prevent being a Data Breach victim.

Data breach prevention needs to include everyone at all levels — from end-users to IT personnel, and all people in between.

There are some best practices to be followed to prevent a data breach –

  • Updating the Operating systems and applying the latest patches
  • Use high grade encryption for sensitive data
  • Upgrading devices at regular schedules
  • Enforce BYOD security policies
  • Enforce strong credentials and multi-factor authentication
  • Educating employees on Data leakage and Data Theft Threats

One term that we always come across while looking at data breaches is Social Engineering.

This is a manipulation technique that exploits human error to gain private information, accesses or valuables.

Such attacks that cause account breaches, can happen online, in-person, or via any other interactions.

Such scams are always built around how people think and act. Since these are based on Human behaviour, it can manipulate the behaviour into giving away critical information.

The focus of social engineering is:

Sabotage – disrupting or corrupting data to create damage or havoc with data leaks.

Data theft – Obtain valuable information and use it against you, exploit your weakness

Related: What is Sabotage in Social Engineering Attacks?

What should concern you the most is account breach? There are certain sites that will let you check if your identity has been stolen / compromised.

One such site is the f-secure one, where you can place your email account and a complete report will be sent based on your email address exposure and data leakage.

The best way to protect your identity online is to secure your private information by using strong passwords and being careful what you share across different services.

When passwords are compromised, it means that the services you use with the passwords are all exposed.

In many cases, users can go on for years without realizing that their passwords are compromised and private stuff made public.

What Makes a Strong Password? 

A strong password is a long one, making it difficult to guess. It is important to have separate passwords for each service.

Thereby, if one service is a victim, the other services are not affected. 

This will help against data leakage.

Now, the question is how would you detect an account breach?

Always look for the below to detect an account breach or data breach

  • Suspicious network activity (strange file transfers / login attempts)
  • Sudden changes to critical infrastructure or systems, passwords or accounts
  • Suspicious files in your system that may not be encrypted
  • Suspicious banking activities and transactions
  • In-explainable loss of access to the network, email or bank accounts
  • Slow internet connections or network accesses.
  • Warnings in the browsers, anti-virus tools

There are sites that will let you know if your email addresses have been pawned and data leakage. You can check for both email addresses and international phone numbers.

Here you can get complete information if your email address has been used elsewhere, or even copy and pasted.

So the primary goal is to ensure that you do not share your email addresses, phone numbers, or contact details with people whom you do not trust.

For more information of the areas of focus, do visit us at the page: Acronis Cyber Protect

On our side, we have a single solution to protect your data: Acronis Ransomware Protection

If you would like to know what more can be done about your data and your websites / applications, do connect with us at here.

Contact Us

Related articles:

What is Phishing Mail?

What is Malware Attack?

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