What constitutes a breach of data protection? This is an important question because not all compromises to your user data need to be officially reported under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). We understand the need to report a breach when it happens, but understanding the specific breaches that should be reported can save you and your business from going through unnecessary processes. 

Keeping your personal data protected has never been as crucial as it is now. If we were to compare it to the real world, a personal data breach is equivalent to someone breaking into your house and doing whatever they want. Therefore, in the same way, you wouldn’t want any Tom, Dick, or Harry waltzing into your home whenever they want; you shouldn’t let any unauthorised person have access to your client’s personal data records. 

If you have a large organisation and your customers’ personal data protection is extremely important, we recommend hiring a Data Protection Officer (DPO). The DPO will oversee data protection and privacy matters in your business. Still, if you haven’t previously placed data protection at the forefront of your priorities, this is the time to do it. 

Unfortunately, data breaches can happen to your organisation at any point and can have catastrophic effects. Today we’re covering how to recognise a breach of data protection and how to prevent it from happening. 

What Is a Personal Data Breach?

According to the GDPR, a personal data breach is “A breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorised disclosure of, or access to, personal data transmitted, stored or otherwise processed” (Article 4, definition 12). 

Therefore, you should report a breach of data if it results in a risk to the rights and freedoms of natural persons. This is according to Article 33 of the GDPR. 

When Does a Data Breach Occur? 

Simply put, a data breach happens when there’s unauthorised access to personal information. Examples of such information include names, dates of birth, addresses, financial information, health records, social security numbers, and more. Some of the ways a data breach can happen include hacking, phishing attacks, human error, malware, and more.

What Constitutes a Data Breach? 

We’ve come to the meat of the matter. Since we’ve already established that a breach occurs when personal information is accessed, disclosed, or used without authorisation, let’s look at some specific instances when this can occur. 

1. Unauthorised Sharing of Personal Data 

A good example of this is when you access a website, and the website shares your user data with a third party without your consent. This data can include your email address, IP address, purchase history, pages visited, and any other information that the cookies on the website capture. 

2. Theft of Personal Data 

This is where hacking comes in. A personal data breach can occur when a hacker gains access to a site and steals user data. 

3. Accidental Disclosure of Personal Data 

This can occur when a website that collects user data accidentally makes this data public. 

4. Failure to Secure Personal Data 

If a website that collects user data fails to protect its data, a data breach can occur. 

Ways to Prevent Personal Data Breaches

Prevention is better than cure. Therefore, if you are a business or organisation dealing with personal data, it’s best to take the necessary steps to prevent a breach of data protection instead of having to clean up after yourselves if something happens. 

One ideal way to do so is to be transparent about how you’re using user data and allow your users to have control over their data. This means giving them access to the data and allowing them to delete and correct any mistakes. 

Other ways you can prevent a personal data breach include training your employees to prevent phishing attacks and setting up security measures like firewalls and encryptions. You should ensure that you and your organisation have proactive measures in place to respond fast to a personal data breach. 

Let’s look at some of these personal data breach preventative measures in more detail. 

1. Set up a Strong Cybersecurity Framework

We recommend having a robust and comprehensive cybersecurity policy in your business or organisation that details your approach to data protection. This policy should be available and understood by everyone in the organisation. 

The comprehensive policy should include the use of encryption, firewalls, antivirus software, and more to ensure that personal data and user data are kept safe. 

If you’re keen on getting the best protection for your organisation, it helps to understand the difference between legacy antivirus software and Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR).

2. Undertake Regular Vulnerability Assessments

If you want peace, prepare for war. This quote can be interpreted in several ways. However, in this case, we mean that if you want to prevent data breaches in your business or organisation, it’s best to have strong cyber protection. 

The only way to protect your personal data is to ensure that all vulnerable points are well-protected. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore, conducting regular vulnerability assessments will allow you to spot weaknesses in your system and find ways to fix them before a malicious outside party takes advantage of them. 

3. Use Multi-Factor Authentification 

In this day and age, not using multi-factor authentication is almost a crime, especially when you’re dealing with sensitive information. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary data breaches that can cost you time, money, and effort in the future, ensure that you use multi-factor authentication to allow for only authorised access into your systems. 

This personal data breach preventive strategy is also known as the two-step verification method, and it discourages hackers from trying to get into your system. Again, the preparing for war to get peace quote fits in well here. 

4. Train Your Employees on Cybersecurity

You should train your employees on cybersecurity best practices to empower them to know how to handle sensitive information properly and how to recognise and prevent phishing attacks. 

Check out our guide on cyber security awareness training for more information on how to train your employees.

5. Update Your Systems Regularly 

As technology keeps progressing, cyberattacks continue to get more efficient and sophisticated. Therefore, you must ensure that your system and software are up to date and can withstand any incoming security threats that can lead to personal data breaches. 

6. Have a Personal Data Breach Response Plan 

Your data breach response plan should include how to investigate the data breach, who to inform of the data breach, and how to prevent it from happening again. 

By having this plan in place, your business won’t be caught off guard if a data breach occurs. You and your team members will be able to seamlessly handle the situation without crippling the rest of the organisation by dealing with the breach in an appropriate and timely manner.

7. Limit Access to Sensitive Data 

Sensitive data within your organisation should be on a need-to-know basis. This will help prevent unnecessary personal data breaches and other cybersecurity threats. 

8. Be Transparent About Personal Data 

Your users should be well-informed about how your business or organisation is using their data. In fact, it would be great if you gave your users control of their data and allowed them to correct and delete it as they see fit. 

Although these are good personal data breach preventative measures, they aren’t foolproof. This means that you should have a clear and comprehensive plan in place to deal with any potential data breaches. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

And at the risk of having too many quotes in one article, we’d like to remind you that failing to plan is planning to fail. Therefore, ensure that you create a clear strategy on how to deal with breaches in case they occur, to save you a lot of trouble down the line. 


We’ve seen that a breach of data protection happens when there’s unauthorised access to your personal information or your users’ personal information. This can include information such as dates of birth, names, addresses, IP address information, purchase history, and more. 

The best way to handle a potential data breach is to prevent it. Therefore, we recommend taking measures such as having a robust cybersecurity system, training employees, limiting access to personal data, and having a comprehensive plan in place to deal with data breaches, to prevent them from happening. 

The latter is especially important because you can’t completely protect your systems from a data breach. Therefore, the next best thing is to ensure that your business or organisation is equipped to deal with a personal data breach efficiently. 

If you’re looking for more ways to protect your organisation from cyber-attacks, check out our article on five ways to reduce cyber exposure next.

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