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Human Error, Not Hackers Cause Most Data Breaches

Jaclyn Jaeger | February 5, 2013

Sophisticated cyber-attacks on company systems may get all the attention, but the most common cause of data breaches isn't hackers; it's usually little more than simple human error.

According to a recent study by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and the Health Care Compliance Association, data breaches most commonly stem from negligence by rank-and-file employees: laptops left in taxis, smartphones forgotten on a restaurant table, or misplaced thumb drives. In fact, the most common cause of data breaches—lost paper files—is decidedly low tech, the survey finds.

Of the 450 compliance and ethics professionals surveyed, 38 percent said lost paper files caused their organization's last data breach, and 27 percent said the latest data breach was caused by a misplaced portable memory device. Only 11 percent of respondents blamed hackers for their organizations' security breaches.

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