Data breaches are becoming more and more common nowadays. While we hear about them happening in the news, something that isn’t always reported is the impact on the victims.
It’s quite easy for those impacted by a data breach to suffer serious mental and psychological consequences. Depending on the nature of the breach, it could trigger distress, anxiety and serious conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In this guide, we look at the world of data breaches in detail. We examine how they happen, how they can cause your mental health to deteriorate, and what you can do to get the support you need, both from a legal perspective and a psychological one.
What Is A Data Breach?
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the body charged with regulating the use of personal data in the UK. When an organisation breaches laws like the UK General Data Protection Regulation and The Data Protection Act 2018, the ICO has the ability to investigate and impose significant fines.
A security breach which can lead to the unlawful or accidental destruction, alteration, loss, unauthorised dislosure of, or access to, personal data.
The definition covers breaches that are accidental and also deliberate.
How Can A Data Breach Cause PTSD And Anxiety?
Following a data breach, it’s quite natural to feel concerned or worried. Experts have likened a data breach to a virtual burglary, where your personal and sometimes sensitive information is stolen. That could then be used by cybercriminals to attempt to steal money, your identity or defraud you.
These possibilities make it troubling for affected individuals. Let’s take a look at some specific examples:
- Transform Hospital Group – In December 2020 a data breach was reported by the Transform Hospital Group. Following a cyber attack, the images and photos of clients before and after cosmetic surgery were stolen and leaked online. This caused significant distress to those involved.
- British Airways – In October 2020, airline British Airways received a £20m fine for a data breach that affected over 400,000 customers. In this case, personal data and credit card information were accessed. Given the nature of the breach, a lot of affected individuals undoubtedly experienced stress and worry.
- Social Services – Ran by local councils, social services hold a vast amount of data on residents. This can include details of past sexual abuse and court orders against individuals. If this gets into the wrong hands it can cause tremendous worry for those affected.
Get Legal Support After A Data Breach
If your personal information has been exposed, one course of action that you could take is to get legal support and make a data breach compensation claim.
As part of a claim, you could seek the costs of specialist mental health support. For example, if you’ve had to pay out of your own pocket for counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy, then you could claim these funds back as part of a claim.
It’s understandable for those impacted by a data breach to take this course of action. Just looking at the recent example of the PSNI data breach, which saw the personal information of all members of the Police Service Of Northern Ireland shared online, you can understand how stressful and distressing a breach can be.
Families have reported fearing for their safety, with some so concerned that they may have to move home or even change jobs or roles within the force.
In this instance, it’s possible for the staff and those impacted by the PSNI data breach to claim compensation. While money can’t undo the harm caused, it can certainly help, especially when it comes to getting support for the psychological impact.
Get Support For Your Mental Health
If you’ve been impacted by a data breach and you’re looking for support for your mental health, we recommend reaching out to the following organisations. They can support you with a range of conditions, from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder.
- The NHS has a lot of different mental health services that you may be able to gain access to.
- The mental health charity Mind has lots of information and support on available on their site.
- The Mental Health Foundation has lots of advice on how to get help
- If you’re a younger person or child who’s been impacted, check out YoungMinds which offers lots of useful advice and support
If you have any other questions about anxiety and PTSD after a data breach, or getting legal support in the form of a compensation claim for incidents just like the PSNI data breach, please get in touch.