A Closer Look Into Data Breach Sources

A data breach can take place as a result of various incidents.

Some of the most common being:

  1. A targeted data attack by a cybercriminal targeting a business precisely.
  2. An opportunistic attack by any criminal searching the Internet for exposed systems, discovering them and breaking into them.
  3. Insiders or employees who may inadvertently misplace hardware devices containing classified client information.


The above three are the most common sources of data breaches. Here we delve into data breach sources starting with targeted cyber-attacks that result from cybercrime.



As a broad term that includes any criminal activity using a computing device or network such as the Internet, cybercrime is one where an unauthorized individual gains access to another’s computer. Their actions also include creating a virus, storing it with the intent of illegal usage, online fraud, exploitation of people and so on.

According to a cybersecurity report from McAfee, cybercrime costs the global economy over $440 billion per year. The most considerable impact of cyber-criminal activity typically impacts company performance and economies. When considering a cyber-criminal, most people believe that hackers who break into organizations and steal and manipulate sensitive information fall in this category. However, there are four distinct types of cybercriminals. These include standalone or petty hackers, hacktivists, organized hackers and state-sponsored espionage rings or criminals.


Standalone hackers are single or small groups of hackers who carry out a cyber-criminal activity against companies or individuals. With the help of sophisticated software, they typically detect and exploit vulnerabilities on exposed systems and websites that are open to the public. These vulnerabilities are further exploited as they gain access to the data and try to sell it for financial remuneration. This particular category is usually motivated by money and is opportunistic, which means they look at organizations as opportunities rather than businesses. So, if a standalone hacker intends to steal credit card data, they could take the path of least resistance and focus on a route where the danger of being apprehended is relatively minimal.


Notwithstanding being financially motivated, some standalone hackers may lack substantial technical resources. Hence, if an organization or individual has superior document security controls such as DRM, the hacker would typically move on to another individual or organization with low levels of data security.


Such criminals usually launch targeted social engineering attacks that include disseminating emails that can entice and lure unsuspecting victims into diverging classified data. Having the confidence of the victim, they get the opportunity of circumventing procedural and technological controls in gaining criminal and illegal access to desired document files and information. For instance, a cybercriminal can send an email to an employee masquerading as the IT support desk of the company. The criminal may then request the user to login to a malicious website that appears to look like the genuine website. However, when the victim accesses the website, the fake site captures the username and password to provide illegitimate accessat a later date. In some cases, standalone hackers could also be insiders, which means as legitimate employees of the company, they may access systems and data for nefarious uses. By abusing the access to confidential information, malicious insiders can sabotage or rob classified data to be sold for financial gain.


Organized cybercriminals, although similar to standalone hackers, carry out a cyber-criminal activity for financial gain. They generally tend to be well organized and have access to adequate funds. With thousands of organized crime groups around the world, members of such group are highly knowledgeable and meticulous in their planning and execution of hacking attempts. Besides targeting specific companies, organized crime groups also make use of malware in carrying out financially motivated data breaches.


Hacktivists, on the other hand, are groups of criminals that come together under a definite cause or purpose to carry out data attacks in support of their reasons. Such groups usually tend to target larger sectors or industries but could also attack specific companies that they regard are not in alignment with your views or practices. It is reported that there are over 80 different hacktivist groups around the world.


State-sponsored espionage rings or criminals are highly skilled professionals that are either employed or contracted by conflicting nations to launch targeted and coordinated data attacks on rival companies in support of a particular plan. A popular group of online mercenaries known as the ElderWood group are a consortium of hackers that have conducted hundreds of data attacks against defence contractors, governments and technological companies.


Given that today’s organizations’ data limits are more pervious than ever before, there is an urgent need to collude with partners, consumers and various stakeholders to share and disseminate the right information. Because of cyber-criminal activity, it can become challenging to safeguard sensitive documents and data within the organization or when in transit. But since data today needs to be accessed across a mobile workforce, relying on basic document security solutions is no longer relevant.


This is why sensitive information in PDF files and word documents require continuous protection that travels with the data. As a proactive document protection solution, PDF DRM provides significant and persistent data security that encompasses various scenarios and device platforms. With its fine-grained control over who can view content and what they are allowed to do with it, along with the length of permitted access can be crucial in safeguarding information. PDF DRM employs encryption, identity and usage policies in securing PDF files across various devices. For data to remain secure across multiple data breach sources, it is imperative to provide continuous protection to your data across collaborative scenarios and platforms, which can only be provided through DRM.

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Avinash Prince

He is from Andhra Pradesh, India. With studies, he loves to blog every day with his laptop. He likes computer and other related stuff a lot and he is a great music lover. You can catch him on:  Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn