The terms security breach and data breach are often used interchangeably, and whilst they both will typically occur in the same incident, they don’t always, and they have specific meanings. It is beneficial to have a good understanding of what each type of breach means, so your business can respond effectively if/when either a security breach or data breach occurs. In this article, we will be defining what both a security breach and a data breach is and exploring the differences between them. 


What is a security breach? 

Security breach and security incident are both used in the same context as well, which could be where some of the confusion comes from between security breach and data breach. A security incident can describe any event where your security policies and procedures have not been followed or have been violated in some way to alter the state of the target, such as the exposure of confidential data. 

Whereas a security breach is specifically related to unauthorised access. For example, if a work laptop is misplaced somewhere, it is a security incident, but if an unknown individual finds the laptop and gains access to sensitive information held on the laptop it becomes a security breach. 

In most cases, a security breach is an example of a security incident when a malicious third party or hacker has accessed a system that they should not be able to access. If you want to ensure there is minimal chance of a security breach or incident in your workplace, pursuing security awareness training for your employees will be beneficial to your business. 


What is a data breach? 

A data breach is an incident that involves unauthorised access to personal or sensitive data like computer files or documents. Precise definitions of what constitutes a data breach can vary if you were to search the term online. However, generally it is considered to be a type of security incident that results in intentional or unintentional access, disclosure, or destruction of confidential or private information by a third party.  

If an individual’s data is compromised due to a breach at an organisation storing their information, they can claim data breach compensation for financial loss or emotional distress. In addition, the affected business can be faced with a fine if it is determined that it did not have suitable security measures in place or mishandled the situation in a way that led to further risk. 

An alarming number of data protection breaches happen every year, with all businesses being targets whether they are large companies and organisations or small enterprises. Government statistics show in the past 12 months alone there have been around 2.39 million cybercrimes committed and 49,000 cases of fraud resulting from cybercrime. This makes having the support of reliable and efficient data protection services more important now than ever before. 

The data gathered during a breach includes financial information like credit card numbers, names, addresses, and other corporate data. If anyone outside of a business accesses this type of data without authorisation, it is classed as a data breach. 


What’s the difference between a security and data breach? 

The differences between a security breach and data breach can be summarised with two key factors definition and source. 

Definition of the terms 

A security breach is a broader term that covers different types of incidents relating to the violation of organisational, legislative, regulatory security, or privacy policies. A data breach on the other hand, is a more specific term that relates to data and unauthorised access and use of data by a third party. In summary, all data breaches can be categorised as security breaches, but not all security breaches will be a data breach. 

Source of the incident 

Data breaches can come from a few sources, the most common is a cyber-attack from a third party, looking for data they can use for fraudulent purposes. Or an internal human error where an employee has accidentally exposed or compromised private data. Security breaches are broader with many different potential sources, it could be that confidentiality, integrity, or availability has been breached for instance. Data breaches are more likely to stem from a source with malicious intent. 



Despite sharing similar colloquial meanings, a data breach refers to a more specific type of security breach. If your business needs support in improving its cyber security practices and reduce the risk of a security breach or data breach occurring, contact CyberWhite today. Our experts provide a tailored service to ensure all the security needs of your business are met with effective long-term solutions. If you want to know how secure your systems currently are, be sure to request a security check from us.