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What is a Data Protection Breach?

3 minute read
A data protection breach is when protected data was lost, altered, destructed, or disclosed without authorisation as a result of compromised security.
By, Jonathan Mack

Data breaches can occur when sensitive data is mishandled, whether it's with malicious intent or simply due to carelessness. If a data breach occurred, the individuals whose information was leaked or compromised could be at risk of fraud or identity theft.

In addition to this, organisations that have experienced a data breach, could also face legal action, financial loss, or reputational damage.

A security breach is a security incident that can be classified into three types:

  • Confidentiality breaches: The unauthorised disclosure of personal data like confidential medical details of patients.
  • Availability breaches: The loss of access to personal data, like the loss of data after a cyber attack destroyed records.
  • Integrity breaches. The unauthorised alteration of personal data.

How do data breaches happen?

A personal data breach can occur in many ways but one typical way is stolen or weak credentials. Many websites and internal systems use very standard software, plugins, and applications that can easily contain vulnerabilities.

Criminal hackers exploit these vulnerabilities, gaining access to a company's systems and compromising business and personal data.

Application vulnerabilities

Common application and website security issues can easily lead to privilege escalation, injection, and cross-site scripting.

Negligent employees

Employee negligence is also a risk factor when it comes to personal data breaches as human error typically accounts for the majority of incidents reported to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Preventing data breaches

One of the best ways to prevent a personal data breach is to implement basic cyber security measures. One such solution is implementing the Cyber Essentials scheme - a government-supported framework that sets out the basic controls for organisations to protect themselves against cyber attacks.

You can also implement specific cyber security measures for your business:

  • System monitoring
  • Data leakage prevention
  • Log file consolidation
  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion prevention
  • Spam filtering

According to the General Data Protection Act (GDPR) organisations should appoint a data protection officer (DPO) to monitor internal compliance, provide advice on Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIAs), and inform on your data protection obligations.

The DPO is also the point of contact for the ICO and must be an expert in data protection, be independent, and report to the highest management level.

A DPO can be an external appointment or an existing employee.

Reporting data breaches

When your company experiences a personal data breach you have to report it to the ICO within 72 hours after you become aware of the breach.

If you're unsure whether to report the breach, you can use the self-assessment breach tool from the ICO to determine whether it meets the threshold.

When you report breaches, the notification of a breach should include the nature of the data exposed in the breach, the name and contact details of the DPO or other contact, and description of possible consequences of the personal data breach, and a description of the organisational measures taken to deal with a data breach.


With more than 40% of organisations having experienced data breaches in the last 12 months, it's time to make personal data protection a priority.

At Swiftcomm we provide a total cyber security solution for UK businesses large and small to prevent unnecessary personal data breaches.

Our vast expertise along with our extensive experience in implementing standards and frameworks allows us to tailor our security services to meet your budget and business goals.



  1. ICO. Personal Data Breaches. Accessed September 26 2022.
  2. National Cyber Security Centre. About Cyber Essentials. Accessed September 26 2022.
  3. GOV.UK. Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018. Accessed September 26 2022.

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