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As the holidays approach, its easy to see why 2014 has become known as the "year of the data breach." The data breaches at Target, Home Depot, and TJ Maxx, while widely reported in the media, only scratch the surface of the risks companies face. Dave DeWalt, the CEO of FireEye, a cybersecurity company, explained in a recent Sixty Minutes report that 97 percent of all companies are suffering data breaches.



In fact, data breaches are becoming so commonplace that there is a risk that consumers and businesses are suffering from data breach fatigue. But, worse than breach fatigue is the mess left after a breach. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Home Depot is facing 44 class action lawsuits from its data breach. Target is facing almost 70 such suits. And with 97 percent of businesses facing data breaches, the risks go far beyond the big box stores – every consumer and business needs to be prepared for the possibility of a data breach and the cleanup costs that come with it.

Don't treat data breaches like holiday shopping and get stuck at the last minute. If you’re a consumer, change your password so it’s NOT 12345. If you’re a business, be aware that you face threats on multiple fronts. Data breaches occur when consumer data is stolen (as when hackers stole 40 million credit card users' information from Target last year), but now there are threats that go beyond spam and phishing, from wireless network hacking and malware to mobile system vulnerabilities.

The lesson here is to be realistic. With 97 percent of companies facing data breaches, we cannot hope to eradicate data theft. But, we can take steps to minimize the risk to your business before a data breach occurs. Have a plan in place and react promptly to minimize the damage in the event of a breach. Peace of mind is the holiday gift that promises a very happy new year.