Data breaches occur when information security and data security are compromised, resulting in sensitive information, personal information or other sensitive data being exposed, copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen or used by people with unauthorized access.
Cyber attacks, social engineering and phishing, ransomware and other types of malware, physical theft of hard drives, insufficient vulnerability assessment and patching cadence, inadequate information security policies, inadequate security awareness training, and a general lack of cybersecurity measures can all result in data loss and breaches.
Cyber criminals frequently seek out the following targets:
- Financial data such as credit card numbers
- Personal information such as social security numbers that can be used to commit identity theft
- Personal identifiers, such as phone numbers and social media accounts
- General information about your organization or competitors, such as suppliers and critical business relationships
Whether your organization is a small business or a large multinational corporation, there are some fundamental data breach prevention techniques that you can employ to mitigate the risk of common security threats.
With the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other data breach notification requirements, it is critical to protect against data breaches and to have an incident response plan in place in the event of a breach.
Is It Necessary for My Organization to Be Concerned About Data Breaches?
Regardless of the size of your organization, you should be concerned about data breaches and take steps to prevent them.
When data breaches make headlines, it is frequently because they occurred at a large multinational corporation such as Yahoo, Google, or Equifax. This can create a false sense of security for small businesses, but in reality, small businesses are just as vulnerable to data breaches as large corporations.
Even small businesses have valuable data that cyber criminals can target:
- Personally identifiable information (PII) about employees, such as birthdates, social security numbers, and full names
- Names, email addresses, phone numbers, and passwords of clients
- Financial data, such as account and routing numbers
- Credit card numbers
While it is true that cyber criminals profit more from security breaches at large organizations, small and medium-sized businesses typically have fewer security protocols and no security team in place, making them easier targets.
How Are Data Breaches Perpetrated?
Attackers are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to devise novel methods of stealing sensitive data.
Many data breaches, however, are not the result of sophisticated cyber threats. In fact, many incidents are the result of simple human error, such as improper configuration, weak encryption, or breaches by third- and fourth-party vendors. This is referred to as a data leak.
There are several common sources of security breaches, including the following:
- Data leaks
- Passwords that have been lost, stolen, or cracked
- Exploitation of vulnerabilities
- Ineffective configuration management
- Breach of third- and fourth-party data
Despite the fact that attackers have been utilizing these techniques for years, numerous organizations continue to fall victim to them.
How to Prevent Data Leaks
A data leak occurs when sensitive data or personally identifiable information (PII) is accidentally exposed in any form, including lost hard drives or laptops. Data leaks enable cyber criminals or anyone else to gain unauthorized access to data.
A cloud leak is a common type of data leakage. This occurs when cloud data storage services such as AWS are configured incorrectly, resulting in Google crawling and exposing data to the Internet. AWS is not the sole perpetrator of data leakage. Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and improperly configured GitHub repositories have all been shown to result in unintended data leakage when configured incorrectly. As a result, configuration management tools are critical for preventing data leaks and breaches. Configuration management can help prevent data leaks by ensuring that cloud services do not expose data to the Internet.
How to Avoid Data Breaches Caused by Phishing
Phishing is a type of social engineering that entails masquerading as a legitimate website or email in order to collect sensitive information such as login credentials, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and other financial information.
Phishing scams deceive victims by utilizing a sense of urgency or social pressure to coerce them into providing their personal information via email or on a spoof website that looks identical to the real website.
To avoid phishing, train employees to thoroughly examine emails and text messages for suspicious links and attachments. Another effective measure is to implement a password manager that will only enter passwords on legitimate websites.
How to Avoid Losing, Stealing, or Cracking Passwords
In many instances, insecure passwords can result in data breaches. For instance, an employee may scribble their password and leave it on their desk in plain view, or they may use a commonly used password that is easily cracked or guessed. As computing power becomes more affordable and common password lists grow longer, it is up to your organization to enforce strong password policies.
To avoid data breaches caused by password breaches, emphasize the importance of password security to employees. Employees should be required to use strong passwords and not write them down. Consider adding multi-factor authentication to systems that contain sensitive data, which requires both a password and a one-time password to gain access.
How to Avoid Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware is a type of malware that is designed to prevent users from accessing their computers or encrypting their data until a ransom is paid. Ransomware is frequently spread via phishing emails or by exploiting vulnerabilities.
Consider installing antimalware and antivirus software, backing up files to ensure that they are not lost in the event of a successful attack, and patching devices on a regular basis to avoid ransomware-related data breaches.
How to Avoid Data Breaches Caused by Vulnerability Exploits
A vulnerability is a flaw in a computer or other device that can be exploited to gain unauthorized access to or perform unauthorized actions on it. Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE), a database of publicly disclosed vulnerabilities and exposures, is an excellent resource for keeping track of vulnerabilities.
Consider investing in a tool that automatically scans your organization for vulnerabilities and assigns you a cybersecurity rating to help prevent data breaches caused by vulnerabilities.
How to Avoid Spyware Intrusions
Spyware is a type of malware that infects your computer or network with the intent of stealing data. It can be spread via bundleware, phishing, or as a result of another cyber attack.
As with ransomware, consider antivirus and antimalware software, as well as general cyber security awareness training, to prevent spyware.
How Configuration Management Can Help You Avoid Data Breaches
Configuration management (CM) is a subset of IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on ensuring that a system’s configuration is known, accurate, and trustworthy. CM is concerned with maintaining an accurate record of a system’s state so that any changes can be identified and, if necessary, reversed.
By providing visibility and tracking of changes to your systems, configuration management can help reduce the risk of security breaches caused by the improper configuration of cloud services.
It is critical to avoid configuration drift. Once data is exposed due to an error, organizations must prove that the data was not accessed at some point. Due to the fact that digital forensics cannot capture everything, determining what data was exposed and to whom is difficult after the fact. Prevention is critical.
How to Avoid Data Breaches by Third and Fourth Parties
Every business outsources a portion of its operations to a variety of suppliers. These suppliers, in turn, subcontract operations to other subcontractors. This introduces the risk of a third party and a fourth party. This is why vendor and third-party risk management are critical components of preventing data breaches.
Vendor risk management programs are a comprehensive approach to identifying and mitigating business risks, legal liabilities, and reputational harm caused by third and fourth parties.
Consider investing in a tool that can automatically monitor your vendors and their vendors for cybersecurity risks to help prevent third- and fourth-party data breaches. You must be able to identify and monitor vendors, as well as track and compare their security performance over time and against industry benchmarks.
The Litcom Approach
Today’s business leaders wonder how secure their organizations and IT systems are, and often struggle to find the right strategy to balance implementing effective information security controls and achieving business objectives of cost reduction and agility. Litcom provides information security expertise and skilled resources to assist our clients in a variety of information security capacities. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.