What is it?

Any unauthorised access to stored sensitive data through network hacking, lost or stolen laptops or data tapes, or information posted to a website.

How does it work?

Data breaches can be caused by innocent employee error, or can be the result of intentional malicious attacks. Data at risk includes a company's intellectual property and customer/personal data. The customer information revealed through a data breach is often targeted for use in identity fraud.

Should I be worried?

The financial costs of a data breach include legal fees, possible fines and potential lost revenue. The damage to reputation, brand and consumer confidence cannot be measured, but are extremely costly. Reports put the total number of records compromised in data breaches since January 2005 at more than 100 million.

How can I prevent it?

Protect data from threats both inside and outside the company. Steps to take include encrypting data stored on computers, laptops and removable media; using firewalls to secure against viruses; and monitoring your databases for unusual activity. Most importantly, treat data security as a business issue, not just a security issue.