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Frequently Asked Questions

Data breaches can occur in a number of ways:

  • lost or stolen hardware including laptops, tablets, phones and removable storage devices, as well  as paper records containing personal information
  • storage devices being disposed of or returned to lease companies without the contents being erased. This can include hard disk drives and other digital storage media (integrated in other devices, for example, multifunction printers, or otherwise)
  • databases containing personal information being ‘hacked’ into or otherwise illegally accessed by individuals outside of the agency or organisation
  • employees accessing or disclosing personal information outside the requirements or authorisation of their employment
  • paper records stolen from insecure recycling or garbage bins
  • personal information mistakenly being provided to the wrong person, for example by sending details out to the wrong address, and an individual deceiving an agency or organisation into improperly releasing the personal information of another person

Depending on the size of the data breach a business can be impacted in a number of ways. Some of the impacts are:

  • Loss of valuable data
  • Costs of remediation and third party litigation
  • Costs of breach notification
  • Reputational damage to brand and diminished consumer confidence
  • Revenue impacts – customers switch to competitors, prospects more likely to choose competitors
  • System and technological disruptions

At least one data breach occurs every week in Australia, with an average of 20,073 records lost or stolen per incident.

Currently, the true scale of data breaches in Australia is unknown due to the lack of notification laws. Overseas experience suggests that unreported data breaches are far more common than people impacted are aware.

For more information, see our November 2015 Cybercrime and Fraud Report.

A data breach is an incident in which sensitive, protected or confidential data is potentially accessed, modified, viewed or misused by an individual unauthorised to do so. Data breaches may involve personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets or intellectual property. A data breach may not involve just a single consumer having their identity compromised; it involves the unauthorised access of hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of records containing personal information.