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What Is a Data Security Incident?

Other beginner-level courses in the data security incident module include What is a data security breach, and Building your data security best practices.

Check out the Data security training course page for all data security modules.


A data security incident that compromises business data security can cause significant challenges, disrupting everyday business operations and causing financial or reputational harm.

In this beginner-level data security course, you will learn:

  • How data incidents are defined
  • How to embed essential data security strategies within your business
  • Important protection tools that can safeguard devices, networks, and applications.

What is a security incident?

A data security incident can be defined as an issue that has put the organization’s data, systems, or related applications at risk and could result in a loss of compliance.

Data security in business could impact your everyday enterprise and lead to a compromise in system data and security measures. An example could be when an unauthorized user attempts to log into a system or device, which would be classed as a security incident.

What makes a data security incident different from a data security breach?

Data security incidents and data breaches are closely related but have separate meanings. While a data security incident can be defined as an event that compromises the company’s security policy, such as a phishing email that is received by an employee, a data security breach is when a company’s systems, data, or applications are accessed without authorization. For example, when that phishing email is clicked, the malware is then able to infect the device.

Examples of security incidents

The importance of data security cannot be underestimated. As 56% of IT decision-makers are more concerned about security in their company, organizations must remain aware of new and developing data security threats.

Examples of data security threats include:

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack: Using botnets (otherwise known as infected devices used as attack operating stations), DDoS attacks can saturate a website or server IP address with traffic, making it unavailable. DDoS attacks are sometimes used as a distraction tactic, with hackers then undertaking an additional attack leading to a data breach.
  • Insider changes: With 95% of cybersecurity breaches caused by human error, it is no surprise that companies feel that their IT departments are not sophisticated enough to handle advanced cyberattacks. An example of an insider change could be forgetting to remove employee access to certain files or applications once they have left the company. 
  • Loss or theft of equipment: The accidental loss or theft of business IT equipment could lead to significant data security risks to existing systems and applications.
  • Disruption of access: This could result from attempts by a bad actor to access data on company networks, devices, and applications.
  • Disruption of services: If an unauthorized user gains access to your network, an attacker can then look to gain additional privileges, which can pose a significant risk to your existing services

How to deal with a security incident

If your business has a security incident, it is vital to act quickly in order to safeguard your existing operations and protect the network from a breach.

Steps should include:

  • Identifying a response team to investigate the incident
  • Isolating potentially affected devices and applications
  • Identifying whether a breach has occurred and if so, implementing a disaster recovery strategy
  • Reviewing and updating security and training policies
  • Reporting the incident, depending on the industry or region-based data security compliance regulations

How to prevent a security incident

Developing a data security policy will enable your businesses to standardize how data is handled, and develop vital data security standards to reduce the risk of incidents and breaches. It can also form part of a wider Business Continuity Plan (BCP), which includes processes to mitigate potential threats to your business and contingency plans for all areas of operations for when unavoidable events occur.

Security policies and crisis planning should be regularly updated to reflect changes within your business and adapt to the shifting cybersecurity landscape.

Additional ways to improve data security include:

  • Investing in training to educate employees about policies and threats
  • Implementing a strong password policy across your organization
  • Introducing bring your own device (BYOD) and remote working policies to ensure that your business retains the same level of security inside and outside the office.

Incident prevention and protection tools

Several data security solutions can aid in incident prevention and protection. Types of data security software and services include:

  • Endpoint protection: From traditional desktop computing to laptops and tablets to printers, endpoints are defined as any device that is connected to your network and could be used as an entry point for hackers or malicious software.
  • Implementing a firewall: A firewall monitors all traffic that enters or leaves your network and blocks unusual or unauthorized traffic.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN server hides the user’s IP address when accessing the internet, blocking bad actors from viewing confidential data.
  • Automated patch management: A patch is a software update that fixes vulnerabilities in a specific application. Automating these updates can ensure robust data security and compliance standards.
  • Cloud security software: Data security in the cloud is essential for preventing and protecting organizations from incidents and breaches.

Keep learning

Completed this module? Move on to learn about data breaches and data security best practices, or check out the data security training page for a course overview.

For more information about business security solutions, visit the Avast Business Resources page.

Make sure your business is protected against even the newest cyberthreats.


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