A data breach is an unplanned or accidental release of personal/confidential/sensitive information to an unauthenticated environment. These can be caused by a number of things such as human error, software or hardware failure, physical security breaches, or network breaches. Other terms for these incidents include unauthorised access, unintentional data leakage, malware attack, data spill and other more general terms.

Malicious software like Stuxnet infected systems, which was programmed to affect software used in networks and computers of nuclear facilities in order to disrupt and destroy them. However, while the data contained in these files were very harmful for humanity, they were not breached and damaged due to a data breach because they were not stored in a secured environment. Instead, the main culprits behind this attack were those involved in its development and deployment who were involved in cyber espionage and corporate sabotage.

Data breaches are very serious issues. In the recent past we have seen many celebrities, politicians and businessmen fall victims to this kind of threat. Some of the high profile people who have fallen victims of these attacks include: Tiger Woods, Sarah Palin, Chelsea Manning, John Edwards, Michael Jackson, Donald Trump and even Osama Bin Laden. It has also been revealed that the United States government is not immune to being hacked.

As it turns out, different types of data can be leaked and made available to hackers. Some of the common data that are available for exploitation are credit card numbers, social security numbers, banking details and passwords. While some of the more complex data can include information like credit card transaction records, bank statements, medical records, employee details, government files and so on. All this information can then be used for fraudulent activity or even identity theft.

How does a company get protected against these types of breaches? There are a number of things that can be done by the organization. One of them is installing firewalls and online safety software that can help to block the access of data from hackers. Other security measures that can be implemented by the company includes running a strict network, updating its software, storing passwords and credentials and passwords that are given out to authorized users, having two-way data encryption on all its electronic data, using firewalls to filter out unauthorized users and servers and not allowing unauthorized users to connect to internal networks. Another security measure is to ensure that all employees are trained to use password or fingerprint scanning systems when entering their user name into the computer, so that unauthorized users cannot gain access to confidential information without authorization.

The major data breach incidents in the recent past include Stuxnet which resulted in the destruction of Iranian nuclear facilities and the Office of Personnel Management breach that resulted in the massive hacking of government agencies, as well as the Sony hack which resulted in the leak of confidential information including the e-mails of celebrities and other company executives. As you can see, these incidents have caused tremendous harm to the reputations of these companies and organizations and are very expensive for them.

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