What is a data breach?

A data breach occurs when sensitive, protected or confidential information has potentially been viewed, stolen or used by an unauthorized individual. Data breaches may involve personal health information, personally identifiable information or intellectual property information.


How do data breaches happen?


  • User deception: Criminals trick users with phishing messages and forged websites, fooling users into giving up information or unknowingly downloading malware that will intercept data entered and/or stored on the computer.
  • Error by the organization or a vendor: Problems with the processing, handling or disposal of user information.
  • Loss and theft: Loss or theft of laptops, tablets, smartphones and flash drives that contain private information.


What is the impact of a data breach?


If there is a data breach of personal information, identity theft is a possible threat. A data breach is very costly to any organizations involved. Investigation, notification, legal expenses, fines and staff time are all avoidable expenses. A data breach may also damage the reputation of the University as a whole.


What should I do if I suspect a data breach has occurred?


If you suspect that Wayne State University data has fallen into the hands of unauthorized individuals, keep track of any evidence you have of the data breach and contact the C&IT Help Desk as soon as possible. They will escalate your report to the C&IT Security Team for prompt attention.