The Impact of a Cyber Security Breach

The Impact of a Cyber Security Breach

If your business falls victim to a cybersecurity breach, the financial and reputational effects can be devastating. Data theft is more common than ever, with nearly 85% of businesses under 1000 employees suffering an attack. As a result, having safe and protective measures in place is important if you want your consumers to trust you with their private information.

It might seem like a rare occurrence and not likely to happen to smaller companies, but nearly every business that holds a customer's personal information can easily become a target, especially if it's financial information such as credit card info. For business owners with and without experience in cybersecurity, you must know just how serious these can be and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim yourself.

What is a security breach?

A cybersecurity breach can take several forms, but the short version is that it's any unauthorized access to a bank of private information. Some hackers will directly target single individuals to copy or mess with their information. More often, they target larger businesses to access vast amounts of stored information from their websites or servers.

As for how these hacks take place, they can be both physical and digital. Someone may log into a stolen computer using an employee's account, while other hackers use bots to break into a company's system remotely. Some hackers will also hold your data hostage as a ransomware attack, but it's more common lately for companies to have personal information stolen without them ever finding out.

What information do cyber criminals steal?

Most hackers will break into business computers to steal sensitive data about customers, such as credit card information, SINs, SSNs, and even phone numbers or addresses. This data is hard, if not impossible, for the customer to change and an easy way to get money, but more often, hackers sell this information on forums and marketplaces in vast quantities.

Selling this information essentially lets hackers collect cleaner income, as using the data themselves is easier to track and a slow process. A single individual's data can sell for about $1 to $8, depending on how much information is in it. By copying a spreadsheet of credit card details from a single breach, cybercriminals can quickly make a fortune off of selling private information about customers.

Types of security breach

We've already talked about some of the most common types of stolen information, but it's important to know the different types of breaches your business might encounter. Hackers can disrupt your service and take your private information in several ways, and you must make sure your data security can prevent as many of these methods as possible.

Malware Attacks

Malware attacks involve uploading software to your computers or computer system to harm the system or steal information. Hackers do this in all sorts of ways, from tricking someone into downloading an infected file to directly placing the file onto one of your employee's computers. Either way, it works to harm without the hacker doing anything.

There are also forms of malware that restrict you from accessing or using certain functions. This ransomware forces you to pay a large fee to a given hacker to return function or protect your information. These can be extremely expensive whether or not you pay the ransom fee.

Password Attacks

These thacks are similar to what people refer to when social media accounts are hacked where someone will guess, steal, or crack someone's password to access an account. This approach usually results in defaced and stolen information without anyone noticing since you may not even get a notification that someone has illegally accessed a company account.

When hackers do this type of security breach, they usually copy any private information they can access before leaving the account. It can be one of the stealthiest ways to access your data, and the risk of these hacks is one of the prime reasons you should have complex passwords that are hard to guess or find.

Cross-Site Scripting Attack

Cross-site scripting is a much more stereotypical style of security breach where a hacker will essentially insert a script into your website's code on the client's end, making private pages become public and allowing the hacker to access private information. It can also destroy or disrupt your business's functions, making it especially dangerous and important to be cautious.

These can also be some of the worst security breaches to recover from since they can cause much more permanent damage to your website alongside potentially revealing private information. That said, this is especially hard to do unless you're a highly-skilled hacker, meaning they're not particularly common compared to these other types of security breaches.


Phishing is quite similar to a malware attack, as the idea is to trick a user into giving them personal data or account information through texts, emails, and phone calls. Some classic versions of this include spam emails that ask you for credit card information so they can send you money, but these have become far more creative and deceptive in the past few years.

Some can be quite inconspicuous, posing as companies like Paypal or your bank asking for account information, but some go as far as to claim they're government agencies with a warrant for your arrest. Either way, they intend to convince you to send personal information yourself or get you to click on a link that'll automatically download malware, which may send your personal information without you even knowing.

Social Engineering

The final way that a hacker can make a security breach is entirely through physical means, as it's far easier to break into a system when you have physical access to a computer. Some can go as far as to pose as tech support agents pretending to give a security audit or improve your system, stealing data instead while giving access to your IT system.

Alternatively, they may just convince you or an employee to give them their account information, suggesting they can help with their work or making other lies about why they need it. Computers and digital accounts can be potentially hard to break into, but many people don't need hacking skills to do an effective and hard-to-trace security breach.

How a security breach impacts your business

While it's possible to give monetary amounts that a security breach will cost, the bigger impact comes with your IT system and reputation. If someone hacks your system once, it might mean you need to replace your entire computer or storage system, as it's easier to start a new IT infrastructure than fix what hackers already know to be an easy target.

Moreso, it's extremely hard to gain the trust of previous consumers if their personal information was leaked or stolen from your records. It can be even harder to attract new customers when they can't trust you with their information in the first place. Hackers and bots that target small businesses are aggressive and resilient, and the best way to avoid it is through preventative measures.

What to do if you experience a security breach?

There are tons of approaches that you can take if you fall victim to a security breach. They are extremely common and highly automated, so it can be difficult to keep up against constant cyber threats, but that doesn't mean you can't come back from a serious breach.

You must be open about the breach with anyone who might have been affected and accept the responsibility. Consumers are more likely to trust you again if your business is clear about what happened rather than trying to hide what happened. If your consumers know they may have been affected, they can also take measures to protect their private information and change their passwords to ensure stolen data is unusable.

Lastly, do as much as possible to avoid being a victim of a future attack. Upgrade and replace your IT infrastructure, as well as changing any passwords or vulnerable areas that hackers have previously attacked. Being hacked is a serious problem, but that doesn't mean you can't prevent it from happening again.

How to protect yourself

The best way to avoid being hacked is to protect yourself out the gate. Companies like Digital Fire can provide support in establishing an IT infrastructure that's safe from hackers and functional for its users. There are also plenty of agencies that offer security audits to check exactly where your IT system is most vulnerable, providing clarification and advice on protecting yourself from potential security breaches.

Otherwise, the key to preventing security breaches is through a lot of personal computer safety. Create safe passwords with multiple types of characters, change them often, and keep track of how and where people are accessing company information. Hackers never take a break from trying to access private information, so you should always be as vigilant and careful as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the cost of a data breach?

A: This can vary massively, depending on the size of your business and the severity of a hack. A 1M businesses can spend anywhere between $25,000 to $100,000 to respond to a hack, excluding non-financial costs. To put this cost in perspective, many forms of cybersecurity insurance can cost about $50 to $100 per month, and an ideal monthly cost for cybersecurity is about $250 to $400. 

Q: What is an example of a data breach?

A: One of the recent examples of a data breach targeting a business involved Home Depot, which had a breach where hackers managed to get credit and debit card information from nearly 56 million customers. This attack was carried out by hackers uploading malware to the company's network using a third-party vendor account, similar to how many other businesses get hacked regularly, but Home Depot's size means it could survive this hack far better than many small businesses hit with similarly severe cybersecurity breaches.

Q: What causes a security breach?

A: Security breaches are caused by nearly anything from hackers using code to employees falling for tricks. However, the biggest cause of security breaches comes from bots automatically targeting businesses, usually searching for weak points and having specific scripts that steal data quickly and secretly.

Q: How do you identify a data breach?

A: One of the ways to tell if you've been breached is where your information is being accessed from. It's important to keep track of your site's and system's traffic to know if any unknown or unauthorized IP addresses are accessing accounts or if there's suspicious activity going on outside of normal work hours. If someone is logging into accounts at odd times or locations, or if your IT system is experiencing unusual errors, it can often mean you're being targeted for a hack or potentially the victim of one already.