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As we move further into the digital age, breaches in cyber security are becoming more common and more harmful.

In fact, 72% of businesses who have experienced a major data breach shut down within two years.

Who is effected by data breaches?
A breach can happen to any business, big or small. In 2013 US retail giant ‘Target’ was breached in November and December with 40 million cards affected – despite installation of 1.6million USD anti-malware software 6 months previously. The cost of this breach run into its billions. Furthermore their profit fell by 46% in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2013. This highlights how dangerous a breach can be, even to companies that have taken steps to avoid it.
Smaller businesses are also at risk of a data breach. Hackers can easily send an email containing a phishing link or malware, and without the necessary firewalls in place, all data is at risk. Although smaller companies are less of a target for hackers, a data breach can be something as simple as an employee leaving a laptop on a train.

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Effects of a data breach on a business
Other than the potential of financially crippling a business, breaches can also have a destructive effect on brand reputation. According to a study done by the Ponemon Institute, data breaches can have as much of an effect on brand reputation as poor customer service. Furthermore, 74% of businesses have reported a loss of customers’ as a result of data breaches.
Intellectual property is also at risk when a data breach occurs. If a hacker steals ideas or blueprints then this could stop a business implementing plans and stunt future growth.

How to stop a data breach
One of the best ways to prevent a data breach is to educate employees on prevention. More often, breaches are caused by human error. Such as employees either not encrypting their data, or by clicking a phishing link/malware link in an email. The right training can stop the possibility of a data breach before it starts.
Another tip is to keep up to date on anti-virus/anti-malware software in case something harmful has infected your information. One final basic tip is to perform regular vulnerability assessments. These assessments are to find any holes that might let hackers get access to sensitive information. If any holes are found they can be patched up, before they are exploited.

A major data breach can lead to financial and reputational ruin. Businesses need to constantly look at the way they store personal information and maintain processes to protect themselves as well as customers.

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