Defending Against Data Breach

  • November 15, 2021
  • By Cyberarch Admin

The cyber threat landscape is evolving at a fast rate all across the world. Data breaches have emerged as one of the biggest cyber incidents, devastating industries cut across verticals ranging from large retailers, health to hospitality and tech companies. According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigation Report 2021, more than 5000 data breaches happened in 2021, up from 3950 in 2020. The average cost of a data breach reaches millions of dollars which are staggering, to say the least.

Given the fact that cyber-criminals are getting smarter and using sophisticated tools and technology to conduct cyber-attacks, the all-important question today is not about if but when a data breach will affect your business.

Despite the looming threat, a vast majority of organizations are not well prepared to defend against data breach and the executives and decision-makers are not aware of data breach defense plan. Businesses must realize that exposing sensitive data can have huge implications and may result in various complications that may damage the business and profits. Also, businesses must allocate sufficient budgets to put in place robust solutions to defend against data breaches. 

Understanding Data Breach

A data breach can be understood as any incident that involves unauthorized access, use, or acquisition of personally identifiable information, corporate intellectual data, or sensitive financial data. Data breaches happen when cybercriminals use different methods to gain access to computer systems or networks without permission and compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and security of personal information and other forms of data. 

How Data Breaches Occur?

While it is true that cybercriminals use malicious activities to do data breaches, it is not always the case. Other than malicious attacks, human error is one of the main reasons behind data breaches. It can happen when a user unintentionally shares sensitive data with the wrong person or leaves the data somewhere which is not protected. 

Sometimes a malicious person inside the organization may perform nefarious activities to purposefully harm the company. They may use their access privilege to share sensitive data with hackers. 

Moreover, cybercriminals tend to use physical actions such as stealing computers, laptops, or smartphones to steal data without others knowing about it. Since many of these devices and new technologies are more focused on convenience than security or encryption, it makes data vulnerable to hacking or stealing. 

Methods used to conduct Data Breach

The commonly used cyberattacks for a data breach are discussed. 

Ransomware – Ransomware is a form of cyberattack wherein software is used to gain access and control over important data in a system. Commonly, cybercriminals lock down the file containing sensitive data and demand a ransom for the same. Experts believe that enterprise companies and businesses are the main targets of ransomware attacks. Lately, educational institutions and health institutions are targeted ransomware. 

Malware – Malware, also known as malicious software, is used by cybercriminals to steal private sensitive data which can remain undetected. Disguised as useful software, it uses vulnerabilities related to software, hardware, network, or system to harm individual and business computers. 

Phishing – Phishing is one of the most common methods used by hackers to get confidential information. It is usually carried out by sending fraud or malicious emails or messages. Once the user clicks the link or downloads attachments, hackers make their move and steal data. 

Information target in Data Breaches

Cybercriminals spend a considerable amount of time studying their target to perform data breaches. They do thorough research about the vulnerabilities present in any organization and plan well before sending malicious programs like malware. Some of the most commonly targeted information includes personally identifiable information (PII), personal financial information, customer or user data, corporate intellectual property, trade secrets, health data, etc.

The Proactive Approach 

Data breaches cause huge financial loss and harm the reputation of an organization immensely. The traditional approach of reacting to data breaches wouldn’t work anymore. The proactive approach is necessary where organizations have comprehensive knowledge about their data, robust defense measures, and the capability to neutralize the threat quickly. 

Here are some ways in which can implement the proactive approach to defend against data breaches.

Education, Awareness & Training

Employees of an organization are the first line of defense against data breaches. Therefore, it is important to make them aware of how to handle information on the web, the do’s and don’ts while surfing websites, the importance of using strong passwords, reporting malicious and suspicious activity, etc. Also, cybersecurity training should be held at regular intervals to keep them updated about the latest things happening in cybersecurity, its impact, and how it can help businesses stay secure.

Best Practices

Best practices should be followed by everyone in the organization right from the leadership at the top to the newly appointed intern. Remember, data breaches occur mainly due to existing vulnerabilities and human errors. Therefore, security leaders can develop procedures and processes that meet the security standards and help in protecting data at all levels. The concerned authorities can set varying levels of roles and access permission to individuals based on the needs and requirements of employees like viewing, modifying, and sharing. This a proactive approach to prevent data breaches. 

Tracking Data and Proper Disposal

The company leaders and executives should possess important knowledge about the type of data it has, where it is stored, what is the security status and who can access it. There has to be a mechanism in place that tracks every data inside the organization and how important it is from the security viewpoint. 

Proper management of data would involve proper disposal of data as well. Delete all the unnecessary sensitive data and make sure that is done without any compromises. Hold people responsible for data tracking and disposal. 

Physical security is another aspect that needs attention. There are files, folders, laptops, and hard disks which may contain valuable personal and financial information. They need to be placed under proper security as well. 

Vulnerability Assessment

Assessment, identification and response to vulnerabilities in networks, operating systems, and IT infrastructure must be carried out regularly. Assessment and identification can be done by running real-life scenarios of data breaches. It helps in preparing for any eventual data breach or cybersecurity threat. After studying the data, the response will include patching and updating software, encrypting data, advanced antivirus protection, multi-factor authorization, upgrading devices, etc. 

Partner with Experts 

Cyber threats are evolving, and there are emerging tools and technologies that can be used by cybercriminals to damage businesses without their knowledge. Thus, partnering with expert cybersecurity professionals or consultants is the best thing businesses can do. They will be able to move faster and act promptly to protect against data breaches and resultant damage. Also, they can help your business with the latest defense mechanisms against cybersecurity threats as well. 

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