Another way that a data breach can hurt a company is through the loss of private or valuable information. Generally speaking, every company will have information they wish to hide from the public. Frequently this will be things which could be abused by competitors, such as business strategies, or the results of (expensive) market research and new strategies. Infection by a computer virus means that all of this data could potentially be leaked.

When a virus infects a system, one of the most common results is that all of the data passing through or being stored on the machine becomes available to the authors of the malware. While it is not unheard of, it is unlikely that your rivals are creating malware in an attempt to learn your business secrets. However, once information is stolen, the hackers will be looking for some way to profit off of their haul. If they find financial or personal information, this can then be sold to other criminals who will use it to commit identity theft or other forms of fraud. However, if they realize that they hold sensitive business data, they will often try to ransom it, with the threat of it being released publicly if you do not comply and pay. In this case, your competitors will surely see the information if it is released. At the same time, you may have little reason to trust that the perpetrators will destroy your data after payment is made, and their location may make it impossible to track or prosecute them.

Depending on what they have stolen, this might be a big deal, or only a minor inconvenience. If, for example, you are a defense contractor and you lose the blueprints to a new weapon design, this could be disastrous. Not only have you potentially lost millions of dollars’ worth of innovation, but you also will have lost the trust of your customers.

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On the other side of things, they may have stolen something like market data. Perhaps you have paid a data collection company to gather and analyze data about your target market, or perhaps it is the result of some focus group testing you have done. If this information is lost, then you have only lost the money you invested. While you can still see the information, you will have essentially paid for your competitors to get that information.

To prevent this, following proper computer safety and consistently removing all malware from your machines is the best thing to do. While you can’t be sure that you will be safe, you can certainly increase your chances.