We put our trust in organizations when we provide them with our personal data. If they are negligent in its safekeeping, the civil justice system provides powerful options for making amends.
What Is A Privacy Or Data Breach?
The term data breach is used to refer to incidents where digital databases containing the personal information of thousands, millions, or even hundreds of millions of individuals is accessed. More specifically, a person who is not authorized to access the information is the one who is able to gain access.
Private information is often referred to as ‘sensitive’ or even ‘classified’ because it is not intended to be seen by just anybody. If it weren’t private, then it would be out in the public domain.
For example, let’s say your name is John Doe. You probably wouldn’t mind if your name was out there on the web, on social media platforms, or on discussion forums. However, if your first and last name along with your residential address is available for anyone on the internet to see, you may start to feel a bit uneasy. There are billions of users on the internet and it’s clear that not everyone out there acts with the best intentions.
If you find it concerning for your full name and home address to be visible on the web, consider the damage that could be done if someone also had access to more of your personal information such as your date of birth, your workplace & title, income level, social security number, banking information, and more.
It quickly becomes evident that you could suffer irreparable financial and personal damages if this kind of private information were to “leak,” or be released to the public. Unfortunately, data breach victims are ‘made’ every day, whether they realize it or not.
Computers in the modern day are evolving at an astounding speed. In many cases, the latest technology makes its’ way out into the world before society has a chance to decide whether it should or not. This is very much the case with the collection of our private data.
Most private companies around the Globe believe that more data means more money, whether they’ve already figured out a way to turn the data into dollar signs or not. Collection and storage of information on clients is often the biggest priority, while the protection and security of the same is hardly ever a primary concern.
Considering this, we are still able to break down the majority of data breaches into two broad categories: physical & electronic.
Physical Data Breaches
A physical data breach is just what it sounds like – someone is physically accessing data that they should not be able to, whether via a phone or computer that has access to a database.
It can be as simple as an employee leaving their laptop open and unlocked while they take a bathroom break. In the time the open terminal is unsupervised, someone can sit down and extract sensitive information from the database onto another medium. They could email it to themselves from that same computer, save onto a physical hard drive or portable USB drive, or even upload to “the cloud” to be retrieved later.
This can seem like a time-consuming process, but millions of records of private information can be copied in a matter of minutes. Once the private data has been copied and saved somewhere else, the perpetrator can step away from the computer without getting caught.
Electronic Data Breaches
An electronic data breach is what most of us picture when we think of the Hollywood “hacker.”
With the use of brute force systems, malware, ransomware, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and phishing, among others, an individual who is outside of an organization is able to access that same entity’s most confidential information. Once they’ve gained access, and in a similar fashion to the physical data breach, the perpetrator removes the data from the secure system and saves it somewhere else.
Once the data is in their possession, it’s safe to assume the worst. In the best-case scenario, the hacker will simply make the information available online for anyone to see. In the worst cases, data breachers may hold the data as ‘ransom’ and demand large sums of money in exchange for returning the data.
Neither situation is desirable for the company whose data was breached. But the consequences can be even more grave for the individuals whom the data actually belongs to.
I Think My Private Data Was Leaked – What Should I Do?
If you have any suspicion that your personal data was leaked in a data breach, you need to ask yourself some important questions before taking action.
First – what is the nature of the data? If the information cannot identify you personally or be used against you, then maybe you can forego taking any legal action. Regrettably, this is rarely the case.
If the data is very sensitive in its nature, as is a social security number or username & password to personal email accounts, then you need to take action and you need to do it quickly.
Change any passwords which may have been made public; double-check that you have access to any accounts which used those same login credentials. Essentially. the first hours after learning that you’ve become a data breach victim should be composed of damage control.
Even after taking these initial steps, you cannot assume that the damage has been contained. In fact, most companies take months to notice that a data breach has occurred. By the time you’re made aware, the situation is likely to be completely out of your hands. So, once you’ve taken these small steps within your immediate control, it’s time to seek the help of a data breach attorney.
Can You Sue For A Data Breach?
Recent legislation has established digital security standards that must be followed by companies if they are to collect and store your personal data. When companies are negligent in this duty to preserve the confidentiality of your information, you have the right to file a lawsuit.
A data breach lawyer can help you understand the full breadth of damages that may have been caused by a data breach incident. More importantly, they can set the wheels of the legal process in motion to prevent further losses while also seeking compensation for what damage has already been done.
The world of information technology is advancing every day; you can’t be expected to keep up with all of the new types of data breaches and security measures that companies should put in place to protect you.
On the other hand, it is the job of a data breach attorney to stay up-to-date with all of this and more, while employing the most powerful legal options on behalf of their clients. It is definitely possible to sue for a data breach, and even if you don’t think you were personally affected, it’s worth your time to consider legal action.
Data Breach Class Action Lawsuits
When data breaches occur on massive scales, data breach victims have the right to band together and seek justice against those who were not competent enough to keep their personal information private.
In the same manner that injured patients can team up and file “one big lawsuit” against the manufacturer of a defective medical device or drug, the persons whose data was leaked by a data breach can pursue collective action.
If your private data, along with that of other individuals you know, was leaked in a large-scale data breach, contact one of our experienced privacy breach attorneys now for a free consultation. Getting the legal information you need is absolutely free and there is no obligation to move forward with a claim, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
Data Breach Lawsuit Settlements
Below, we present some recent settlements which highlight the damages and corresponding compensation that can be achieved by pursuing a data breach lawsuit:
Yahoo ordered to pay $117.5 million to plaintiffs after data breach.
UnityPoint Health settles for $2.8 million after data breach that took place in 2018.
Google settles for $7.5 million in consumer class-action data breach lawsuit related to Google+ security bugs.
Macy’s department stores agree to pay $192,500 settlement after customer information was leaked in the spring of 2018.
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