The risk for a data breach is one of the most looming threats that users and companies are facing in the present era. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has let most employees work from home using their insecure networks and personal computers, thereby increasing the security breach vulnerabilities for companies. RiskBased Security investigated that the number of stolen records in 2020 alone increased by 141%, representing a massive figure of 37 billion records being compromised. Data breach is not a new word corporate world is hearing recently, but its scale and impact has reached its all-time high. In this blog, we will have a thorough look at data breach and discuss some basic practices to prevent such security incident from happening.
What is Data Breach?
A data breach is a disclosure of or access to protected and sensitive data without the permission of those who have authority over the data. Thus, classifying it as a cybercrime. The organization from whom the confidential data is stolen, or viewed without its authorization, is said to have suffered from a data breach.
A data breach occurs in an organization of any size. It can be a small-scale business or a tycoon industry. Without up-to-date cybersecurity, anyone can fall victim to data breach incident. A data breach exposes different sets of information depending on what that organization is storing, such as employees information, corporate data, customers personal data breaches, such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, Personal Health Information, etc.
Common Causes of Data Breach
Following are some of the leading causes of data breach incidents:
The best justification of high rate of data breaches in the corporate world is due to their weak security measures. When a company is not serious towards implementing up-to-date cybersecurity measures, then data breaches are most likely to occur. For example, poor password policy, vulnerable networks, outdated apps, and similar others factors give a clear path to cyber-criminals to breach.
The hundreds of exploitative methods used by hackers are compiled in Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) for companies to identify and strengthen their security systems. However, many fails to fix these vulnerabilities. Hence, providing hackers a free avenue to steal and exploit the company’s sensitive information.
Malware is malicious software that can either attack your system directly or indirectly. It is loaded without letting the user know about it and can cause serious harm to the computer, specifically leading to data breach.
The malware allows the hacker access into your computer system and exploits sensitive information from not only your device but other systems connected to you as well. Malware is specifically dangerous because it is created by hackers by modifying any original trustworthy software. Hence, they are not easily detected by antivirus software.
Social engineering is an act performed by hackers to manipulate people into revealing confidential information rather than relying on hacking their system. Such cybercriminals tend to do this by putting up a fake persona, exploiting your inclination to trust them.
They normally extract personal information such as the details of your payment cards, bank account numbers, etc. The most common social engineering tactics are phishing, i.e., email from a friend, a trusted source, or a charitable baiting scenario.
Statistics from the CompTIA showed that 52% of data breach violations are caused by human error. A human error can be caused by negligence or less knowledge about current cyber-threats, leading to an accidental data leakage.
The most common scenario of a data breach caused by human error can be in the form of sending sensitive information to the wrong recipient and falling for phishing attempts.
If your software applications or network systems are poorly written with a weak security code, it provides hackers an open invitation to enter your system and exploit information. Application vulnerabilities can be extremely dangerous, as not only the company is under threat of its private data being accessed, but also the hackers can access the information of the million customers who have their credentials saved on the poorly data protected app.
Theft of a Data Carrying Device
Your personal or the company’s information can be under threat if the data is stored in portable devices such as a laptop, mobile phone, CD, USB, etc. Such devices can either be lost or stolen that puts the information at risk. However, such a case is opportunistic and cannot be predicted. More often than not, the business information saved in such low-storage devices is not in a large amount that could pose a serious concern for the company.
Ways to Prevent Data Breach
Now that we know what data breach is and some leading cause behind it, lets focus on some common ways to prevent data breaches from happening. Following are 5 ways in this perspective:
Limit Access to Sensitive Information
Companies should be diligent in their process of who should be allowed to view and handle the company’s valuable data. A proper access control and monitoring system can be very effective. By doing so, the company can narrow down the number of employees who have access to data, thereby reducing the impact of possible phishing or malware attacks.
Accidental or unlawful destruction of data, employees are the biggest culprits when it comes to a data breach. They are the weakest in the data security chain. More often than not, they are the ones who open dangerous emails or fall for social engineering tactics. Thus, companies need to be vigilant with employees’ security awareness training that needs to be conducted often. The reason for this is so that employees can retain the knowledge effectively to know how to access and share information securely.
Strong Password Policy
A data breach can result in unlawful destruction, loss, or alteration of confidential information if the password is easy to guess. Passwords need to be complex with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters with symbols. Hence, making it hard to decode. Moreover, passwords need to be changed frequently to strengthen security. The measure is to protect the company information and customer data of the million users associated with that company.
It is advised to keep all software solutions updated and fully patched to prevent any back doors or application vulnerabilities in your software. Microsoft offers a service called Baseline Security Analyzer that can analyze your software and inform you when there are patches available, or if your program is up to date.
Vulnerability and Compliance Management (VCM)
Having a VCM system is useful when identifying any weakness or security misconfigurations in your network or physical environment. It can continuously keep a track of any IT assets and technological infrastructure for any gaps in the system. Hence, reducing any vulnerability or data breach affecting company information.
A data breach is a serious security threat that can put any company’s confidential information at risk. It can harm not only the business performance, but also impact customers’ trust. Any business whether small or large is vulnerable to such data breaches. Hence, data breach prevention methods must be taken seriously and enforced for the enhanced security. Moreover, in the case of any cyber threat, a data breach reporting should be filed to the ICO to address the matter legally.