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Data Breach and Data Leak: What is the difference?

data breach vs data leak

Manipulation of security loopholes and exposed vulnerabilities are the most common cause of cyberattacks. Most businesses still have exposed unprotected data and poor cybersecurity resources that they are completely unaware of. 

The cybersecurity market has been predicted to surpass a total value of 170 billion USD by 2022 (Gartner Inc). This is because, currently, all businesses have some form of online presence, and it is important for them to protect their confidential and personal data from unauthorized access. According to another research conducted by Positive Technologies, cyber-attacks have increased by almost 17% as compared to the previous year’s report. 


What is a Data Breach? 

A data breach occurs when an unauthorized individual gains access to the confidential, sensitive, or protected information of an organization. Files from a data breach are accessed and spread without any authorization. Therefore, it may affect anybody, from individuals to large corporations and even governmental bodies. More significantly, if someone is not protected, they risk endangering others as well. 

→Top Data Breaches Of 2021

What is a Data leak? 

Data leaks could occur even without any external or internal attacks. It is possible that someone discovers a flaw that already existed within the system and exploits it, intentionally or unintentionally. Conversely, an organization may have mishandled its data and had it hacked because of weak information security policies. There are many recent cases of accidental or unintentional data leaks. The most well-known recent data leak case involved Microsoft power apps, in which 38 million records were inadvertently released. 

How do they differ from each other? 

data breach vs data leak

Most of the regular cases of data leaks that we usually see on the news occur due to the system vulnerabilities of an enterprise itself, rather than from an external attack. Data breaches, on the other hand, are frequently the outcome of a cybercriminal's intention to get access to sensitive information. 

However, data leaks may later result in data breaches. If cyber attackers discover a major loophole or a way to exploit the system of an organization, it might provide them with all the information and resources they need to successfully execute a large-scale data breach. 

What consequences can they have? 

Both result in similar consequences: whether it was due to a breach or a leak, the organization’s data has been compromised. Account takeovers and even identity theft might occur because of stolen data. The next step is to make certain that any information that was taken cannot be utilized against the data owner. For example, if your banking information has been hacked, you may want to put your account or card on hold until you take the necessary measures to protect yourself. 

Common causes of data breach and data leaks 

1. Ignoring the known vulnerabilities within the system 

In most of cases, data leaks occur unintentionally and fall outside of the company’s information security policies, whereas for a data breach, some of the most common reasons for its occurrence are: 

  • Not having a strong information security policy
  • Compromised vulnerability
  • Outdated firewalls
  • Use of outdated devices
  • Poorly configured or misconfigured networks 

2. Blunder of employees 

The human element is the weakest point in any information security measure. Employees and staff often tend to get easily manipulated and fall victims to social engineering (phishing emails), malware, and so on, which later results in the breach of confidential data and information. 


How it could impact the business 

Customers trust businesses with their sensitive information because they believe they will be securing it with appropriate security measures. A powerful reputation is frequently a company's most significant asset since an enterprise always strives to create and preserve its existing brand's integrity. One small event, such as a data leak, may, however, damage even the most enviable of reputations. Therefore, it is important not to overlook any exposed vulnerabilities within the system. 

Necessary measures and precautions 

  • Limiting access to significant assets 

It is important for an organization to identify which of its assets are the most valuable. In this way it can limit the authority over those resources by only assigning the trusted and the responsible personnel. 

  • Infosec training for the employees 

Most of the attackers plan their attacks focusing on the weakest points of an organization, which are the employees. All the employees of an organization must be trained and made aware of all the possible threats and risks. 

  • Two-factor authentication 
    Two-factor authentication (TFA) helps secure employee credentials by adding an extra layer of security to the digital accounts. It may utilize employees’ other existing online identities as verification such as e-mail, TFA authentication apps and phone numbers are the most used verification protocols. 

→ What Is Multifactor Authentication (MFA)?

  •  Unique  passwords 

Use of easily guessable or simple passwords such as birthdates, names of pets or any form frequently used words should be avoided. There should be a specific format of passwords that are long and should contain letters with upper and lower cases, special characters, and numbers as well. 



Currently, there are not any security measures that assure 100% protection against these factors. However, the risk of potential threats could be drastically reduced using regular cybersecurity procedures. It also helps ensure the customer that their organization cares about their client’s confidential information. Also, if an unprecedented incident does occur, the organization can quickly act according to its existing online security policies and quickly take the necessary mitigation measures. 

Prevent data breaches and data leaks with Humanize Salience. Book a free demo today.