Is a Ransomware Attack Always a Data Breach?

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Ransomware has continued to hit the headlines throughout 2022, and we see no reason why it will slow in 2023. Amidst the frightening headlines, you will often read the word ‘data breach’ or ‘customer information compromised’. Many readers may wonder: is a ransomware attack the same as a data breach? Is a data breach part of a ransomware attack, or vice versa?

In this blog, we will break down the differences and the correlation between a ransomware attack and a data breach. With the support of managed IT services, your business can focus on prevention rather than reaction.

Ransomware Attack vs. Data Breach

The two terms often share headlines. But is one always the other, or are they two different occurrences that often occur simultaneously? These are great questions.

According to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the simple answer is that “yes,” a ransomware attack is a type of data breach.

A common misconception is that an attack is only considered a breach if the attacker has exfiltrated data.

To be considered a breach, one or more of the following must happen: 

  • Access by an unauthorized third party
  • Deliberate or accidental action (or inaction) by a controller or processor
  • Sending personal data to an incorrect recipient
  • Computing devices containing personal data being lost or stolen
  • Alteration of personal data without permission
  • Loss of availability of personal data

Do ransomware infections always have to be reported to a regulator? 

Ransomware infections do not always have to be reported to a regulator. Here’s why: if one of the six items listed above did not happen – which would signify a data breach – the ransomware infection does not have to be submitted to a regulator.

Sometimes, however, a ransomware infection can occur in addition to one of the six occurrences that signify a data breach. In this case, it must be reported to a regulator.

The Challenge of Increasing Ransoms

You may wonder why any business would choose to pay a ransom. The answer is not always as straightforward as it seems. In many cases, senior business management is at a crossroads. They can choose to pay off the cybercriminals and make the incident go away, or they can report the incident, pay heavy fines to regulators, and, worst of all – bear the negative publicity of it all. While there is a right way to handle a ransomware attack, many businesses make ‘wrong’ decisions out of fear and pressure.

The challenge is that ransom demands are increasing, and many companies don’t have the cyber insurance to cover an attack, placing additional pressure on them in this situation. 

Prevent Ransomware Attacks with Managed IT Services

If you feel slightly confused and overwhelmed after reading this blog – you are not alone! Working with the right managed IT service provider guarantees you will remain in compliance with regulations in the event of a ransomware attack or a data breach (or both). As a team of IT professionals at PK Tech, we stay current on both the latest cyber security threats and regulations and compliance requirements for all of the industries of clients we serve. If you are interested in working with us, schedule a free 15-minute discovery call today.