Data Breach

Definition of Data Breach

A data breach is an incident in which unauthorized individuals or entities access, steal, or compromise sensitive and confidential information, often stored electronically. These breaches can involve personal data, financial information, or intellectual property. Data breaches have the potential to cause significant harm to individuals, businesses, and organizations by enabling identity theft, financial loss, and reputational damage.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Data Breach” is: ˈdeɪtə briːtʃ

Key Takeaways

  1. Data breaches can lead to severe financial and reputational damage for businesses and individuals, including identity theft, fraud, and significant financial losses.
  2. Preventing data breaches requires the implementation of robust cybersecurity measures, employee training, and regular monitoring of networks and systems for any suspicious activity.
  3. Swift incident response and remediation steps in the event of a data breach can help minimize the negative impact on, affected individuals, and mitigate potential regulatory consequences.

Importance of Data Breach

The term “data breach” is important because it highlights the critical concern of unauthorized access, theft, or leakage of sensitive information in today’s technology-dependent world.

Data breaches can involve personal, financial, or business information, which ultimately puts the privacy and security of individuals and organizations at risk.

With the rise of cyberattacks and reliance on digital storage and communication, ensuring the protection of valuable data has become a pressing issue.

The severity of a data breach can lead to monetary losses, reputational damage, and potential legal consequences for the breached entity, while potentially causing significant harm to affected individuals.

Overall, understanding the importance of the term “data breach” emphasizes the need for stringent cybersecurity measures and awareness of potential threats to protect sensitive information.


A data breach is an incident that involves unauthorized access to sensitive information, often with harmful consequences for both businesses and individuals. The purpose of a data breach, from the perspective of cybercriminals, is to obtain valuable data for malicious ends such as identity theft, financial fraud, and espionage.

Data breaches can be devastating for organizations, as they can lead to loss of customer trust, damaged brand reputation, hefty fines, and expensive legal proceedings. To better understand data breaches, it is crucial to examine the motivating factors behind them and their impact on the victims.

Perpetrators of data breaches are often financially motivated, seeking to profit from the sale of stolen data on the dark web, or even engage in corporate blackmail. Hackers may target personal information such as Social Security numbers, credit card information, and login credentials, or they might pursue company trade secrets, intellectual property, and other vital corporate data.

Data breaches can also be politically motivated, with nation-state actors looking to gain a strategic advantage or disrupt an adversary. With the rise of technology and connectivity, data breaches have become an unfortunate reality for modern society, highlighting the critical need for robust cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive data and minimize the risks posed by these incidents.

Examples of Data Breach

Equifax Data Breach (2017): The Equifax data breach is one of the most significant and well-known data breaches that affected a credit reporting agency. In this incident, cybercriminals exploited a vulnerability in the company’s web application to gain unauthorized access to the personal information of approximately 147 million people. The exposed data included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. The breach led to various legal repercussions and raised serious concerns about data protection and privacy.

Yahoo Data Breach (2013-2014): The Yahoo data breach is one of the largest breaches in internet history. It involved two separate incidents, one in 2013 and another in

The 2013 breach affected around 3 billion user accounts, while the 2014 breach affected around 500 million user accounts. Cybercriminals gained unauthorized access to user information such as email addresses, hashed passwords, names, phone numbers, and birth dates. These data breaches had a severe impact on user trust and led to substantial financial losses for the company.

Target Data Breach (2013): In December 2013, the retail giant Target suffered a massive data breach, which affected more than 40 million credit and debit card accounts and exposed personal information of around 70 million customers. The thieves used a third-party vendor’s login credentials to infect Target’s point-of-sale (POS) systems with malware that harvested card and customer information. The breach led to significant financial consequences for the company and intensified the focus on enhancing cybersecurity measures, particularly for retailers.


Data Breach FAQ

What is a data breach?

A data breach is an incident where unauthorized individuals gain access to sensitive, confidential or protected information. This may include financial data, personal identification information, or proprietary corporate information.

How do data breaches occur?

Data breaches can occur due to various reasons such as weak security protocols, insider threats, human error, or exploitation of vulnerabilities in software or hardware systems. Cybercriminals may use methods like phishing, malware, or social engineering to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.

What are the potential impacts of a data breach?

Data breaches can have severe consequences for affected individuals and organizations. These may include financial losses, damage to reputation, legal penalties, loss of customer trust, and potential identity theft or fraud for affected individuals.

How can I prevent a data breach?

Preventing data breaches can involve a combination of technical and human-focused strategies. Technical strategies may include implementing strong encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. Human-focused strategies may include regular training and awareness programs for employees, enforcing strong password policies, and limiting access to sensitive data on a need-to-know basis.

What should I do if I suspect a data breach has occurred?

If you suspect a data breach, it is essential to act quickly to minimize potential damage. Contact your organization’s IT or security department to report the incident. Follow your organization’s incident response plan, which may include notifying affected individuals, law enforcement, and regulatory bodies as appropriate. Additionally, work with cybersecurity experts to identify, contain, and remediate the breach.


Related Technology Terms

  • Unauthorized Access
  • Cybersecurity
  • Personal Information Leak
  • Encryption
  • Identity Theft

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents