A new report from Symantec has found that human error and system problems were behind two-thirds of data breaches last year.
Carried out by Symantec in collaboration with the Ponemon Institute, the '2013 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis' report found that on average, the cost per compromised customer record was $136, an increase of 22 per cent from the previous year.
The main issues behind data breaches worldwide were employee mishandling of confidential information, a lack of system controls and violations of industry and/or government regulations.
In addition to this, companies in strictly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance and pharmaceutical suffered data breach costs that were 70 per cent higher than those faced by other industries.
Ponemon Institute chairman Larry Ponemon acknowledged the "great threat" that highly evolved cyber criminals pose towards organisations, but also stressed the need for companies to consider both external and internal factors when it comes to establishing security procedures and vulnerability management plans.
Anil Chakravarthy, the executive vice president of the Information Security Group at Symantec, said that the results of the report highlight the importance of having a well-established security policy in place.
"Given organisations with strong security postures and incident response plans experienced breach costs 20 per cent less than others, the importance of a well-coordinated, holistic approach is clear," Mr Chakravarthy said in a June 5 statement.
"Companies must protect their customers' sensitive information no matter where it resides, be it on a PC, mobile device, corporate network or data centre."
The 2013 edition of the report marks its eighth annual release. The results are based on actual data breach experiences from 277 companies in nine countries, including Australia.
According to the report, malicious or criminal cyber attacks cause 37 per cent of data breaches globally, and they are the most costly to deal with in all nine countries surveyed.
German companies were identified as the most likely to experience a malicious or criminal attack, followed by organisations in Australia and Japan.
As the Symantec report illustrates, the cost of dealing with data breaches can be very expensive, especially when sensitive information is exposed.
If you are concerned about your own organisation's security policies, it may be a prudent decision to consider undertaking a security audit from a trusted provider.