steps to prevent data breach
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7 Steps to Prevent Data Breach

It is crucial to know how to prevent data breaches, as they have increased in frequency over the past few years. The 2020 FBI Internet Crime Report reveals that the Internet Crime Complaint Center received over 790,000 data breaches complaints in 2020, while businesses suffered losses of not less than $4.1 million. The report shows that the number of complaints rose 64% in comparison to 2019.

Data breach threats are becoming more sophisticated thanks to the use of new technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and 5G networks. As the need to compromise networks and steal sensitive information grows, cyberattacks become harder to spot.

Undoubtedly, the SolarWinds attack 2020 was one of the few high-profile breaches in which hackers used sophisticated malware for stealing sensitive data from the US Departments of Commerce, Energy, State, and Justice. This attack, along with many others, shows how hackers are able to exploit the increased cooperation between states and malicious hacker organizations.

Understanding a Data Breach

Unauthorized access to confidential information such as financial data, credit card numbers and social security numbers can be described as a data breach. Data breaches can happen to anyone and every organization due to the increased dependence on digital technology. Data breaches are essentially due to poor user behavior, security flaws or a lack relevant security controls within an information system or network.

The data breach threat surface is growing as more people use mobile devices and social media to communicate with each other. The race to control IoT markets is a clear example of how users in today’s era prefer convenience over strong security. Every day, data breaches are possible because many digital products are released by vendors without adequate data protection mechanisms such as two-factor authentication, encrypted and regular updates.

However, even though all digital technologies have perfect data security capabilities it is still possible for human error to cause data exfiltration. Humans are often the weakest link in data security, as they fall prey to social engine tactics such opening phishing email. Other actions, such as sharing login credentials for crucial user accounts, could lead to ransomware attacks or the theft of identifiable information.

Data Breach Costs’ Implication

Small businesses can be hit hard by a data breach. The cost of a data security breach includes both the direct and indirect costs that an organization incurs to address the resulting consequences. The direct costs can include potential settlements, outsourced investigations to external forensics specialists, and hotline support. The indirect costs, on the other hand, include expenses incurred in in-house investigations and lost business opportunities due system downtime or unavailability of data.

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According to IBM Security and Ponemon Institute the global average cost of data breaches is $3.92 million. This is due to increased regulations and challenges in mitigating cyber-attacks, as well as the devastating financial consequences of breaches.

Additional statistics are provided below to illustrate the financial consequences of data breaches:

  • A Data Breach resulting from a Business Email Compromise could cost a company $24,439 per record.
  • Malware attacks have the greatest financial consequences, as they cost organizations $2.6million. Other data breaches that can be costly include denial-of-service attacks, and web based attacks.
  • Companies that use data protection measures such as cybersecurity integration in the software development cycle, data loss prevention measures and strong encryption have lower costs. The average data breach cost is $360,000 for organizations that use these data security measures.
  • Data breaches can lead to lower share prices. Experts estimate that the share prices of breached companies drop by approximately 14% within a matter of days following the breach.
  • Nearly $600 billion is lost each year to security incidents.

Common Data Breach Methods for 2022

1. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is a malicious program used by hackers to block companies from accessing critical information systems and data. Ransomware attacks are when attackers demand ransom money to allow an organization to regain control and access its networks and data. Ransomware attacks have been increasing in recent years because malware developers are creating ransomware that can be leased to criminals. This is known as ransomware-a-service. Ransomware attacks are when attackers threaten to leak sensitive information to dark websites and force the company infected to pay ransom.

Ransomware attacks can lead to data breaches that could be dangerous for a variety of reasons. Ransomware attacks can cause data breaches and data corruption in companies that pay ransom. Ransomware attackers can also control the systems and networks that are affected, preventing affected companies from engaging in any business activities. Ransomware attacks can also damage the reputation of a breached company because it indicates that malicious actors have gained unauthorised access to customer information and encrypted it using malicious software.

2. Phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are one of the most popular methods for compromising sensitive information. Phishing emails encourage users to click on malicious links and attachments to download malware, or to reveal private information that could be used to access protected accounts such as login credentials. Phishing attacks are common in companies because they require very little technical expertise and equipment.

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Phishing emails are most commonly targeted at company executives and system users. Phishing attacks can be used to trick victims into downloading spyware or data exfiltration malware, which steals and uploads sensitive data to remote servers under the hacker’s control. Other attacks use phishing to gain unauthorized network access by compromising account security of phishing victims.

3. Insider Threats

Cybersecurity professionals consider insider threatss to the most serious. Insider threats are individuals who abuse their access privileges on information systems and sensitive databases in order to commit cybercrimes. A disgruntled employee could work with malicious actors to gain access to intellectual property.

Insider threats can either be malicious or unintentional. Intentional insider threats can be motivated by monetary gain, revenge, and could incite cybercrimes through their access rights to critical systems. Unintentional insider threat users are those who accidentally cause data breaches through insufficient training or ignorance. Insider threats should be considered as a major risk to data breaches.

Best Practices to Prevent Data Breach

These are the top ways that business owners can protect their data from being stolen.

1. Employee Awareness and Training

Data users and system are the weakest links in cybersecurity programs, making them most susceptible to data breach attacks. In order to prevent data breaches, it is important that employees are trained in information security. Training programs for employees are crucial in teaching users about the best information security practices. Employee training programs that are suitable for users should adequately equip them with the skills to spot phishing emails, and avoid making security errors when using confidential customer or business information.

2. Endpoint Management

Technology has been a key component of modern business engagements. It is important for companies to use acceptable methods to reduce data breach risks. Data breaches can be prevented by ensuring that your endpoints are protected. Endpoints are all devices that employees connect to the company’s network in order to access confidential information. Endpoint management systems allow organizations to monitor all endpoints connected to their network and manage who has access to which data. Endpoint threat detection systems provide continuous monitoring of data traffic and alerts when suspicious behavior is detected that could lead to a data breach.

3. Modern Data Backup and encryption

To provide efficient services, almost every business needs customer data. Data is today’s primary driver of business operations and the holy grail for many attacks. To ensure data availability and authorized access, companies should use encryption and strict data backup procedures.

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Companies must make sure that data backups are done by employees in a secure cloud. Physical media backups, like hard drives, can be lost or stolen and are less secure. Organizations must also implement adequate encryption schemes for data at rest and in use as well as data in transit. Because encryption ensures that only those with the right keys can access data, it adds an additional layer of security.

4. Security measures for third-party data

Modern businesses can require that organizations share sensitive information with third parties in their supply chain. Data breaches can result if the data is stored and used in unsecure environments. It is recommended that security personnel conduct detailed risk and vulnerability assessments in order to ensure that third parties who have access to sensitive information are secure. These assessments also demonstrate that an entity is serious about protecting data for any external parties who may be interested in engaging in business activities.

5. Strong Password Security Policies

Password security is a widely used data protection tool for both individuals and companies. However, it is important for business owners to enforce strict password security policies. The policies should at a minimum require that users create complex passwords that are difficult to guess. Users should also create unique passwords for work-issued devices and different accounts. A password manager allows employees to log in to secured accounts easily without having to remember complex passwords.

6. Regular Patch Installations and System Updates

An organization should at the minimum protect its data assets with anti virus software, and other security tools. Data breach prevention tools will not work if companies fail to update their security patches and install them on time. Security breaches can be prevented by regularly updating all operating systems and computers. A hacker can also exploit weaknesses in software by keeping it up to date and mitigating them.

7. Restriction Access to Sensitive Information

A company can take several access control measures to restrict who has access to valuable information. The first step in limiting access to valuable information is to classify all organizational data according their value and sensitivity. To protect the most sensitive data, it is important to implement robust data protection and access control mechanisms that restrict unauthorized access. An organization can limit access to sensitive data by knowing the personal information in its IT environment and scaling it down by keeping only the essential information, locking the information, and creating a plan to address security incidents.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.