The increasing reliance on data has escalated the risks and consequences of data breaches. Whether a result of human error, insider threats, or sophisticated hacking techniques, these events cause significant damage, including financial loss, legal consequences, and reputational harm. This article explores data breaches and their causes and offers tips on developing prevention strategies.
A data breach is an incident where sensitive, confidential, or private data has potentially been viewed, stolen, or used by an unauthorized individual. Data breaches may involve personal health information, financial information, or details about an individual that can lead to identity theft or fraud.
Federal law states that a data breach is the “unauthorized acquisition of computerized data that compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of personal information.” Most countries have specific laws and regulations around reporting data breaches.
Both individuals and organizations must understand what constitutes a data breach, why it occurs, and how to prevent it. Data breaches can result in identity theft, financial loss, and irreparable damage to an individual or company’s reputation.
Knowing how to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from data breaches can reduce their damage. Proper cybersecurity training for employees, robust IT security protocols, and compliance with data protection laws can all prevent breaches.
Monitoring for red flags like increased phishing attempts or unusual user activity can also help you spot breaches before extensive damage is done. Understanding data breaches is the first step to guarding against them.
There are several types of breaches, and the methods used to steal data are only evolving. Let’s explore some of the most frequently used tactics to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information:
This happens when hackers gain unauthorized access to sensitive data stored electronically, like in databases, systems, or files. Malware, phishing, ransomware, denial of service attacks, and SQL injection are commonly used to carry out electronic breaches.
Strong firewalls, updated antivirus software, employee cybersecurity training, and practices like data encryption and access management help secure electronic data from breaches.
Skimming involves stealing credit card information with a physical skimming device when processing in-person transactions. Eavesdropping breaches occur when third parties intercept sensitive data during transmission over networks or phone lines.
Methods like end-to-end encryption, tamper-evident packaging, and two-factor authentication help prevent such breaches.
This occurs when physical records and documents containing sensitive data are mishandled, lost, or stolen. Examples include customer records being thrown in the trash where someone accesses them or a thief stealing a laptop containing unencrypted data.
Shredding documents, securing physical records, and using encryption help prevent physical data breaches. Organizations should also limit physical access to sensitive data to only authorized personnel.
Interested in learning how to secure your business? Check out this guide to protecting your organization.
The first step in preventing data breaches is understanding how they happen. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways business or personal data is accessed by those looking to do harm.
Careless employees are a significant cause of data breaches. Sending personal data to the wrong email address, mishandling passwords, failing to shred documents, or using unsecured networks and endpoints can unintentionally expose data.
Regular cybersecurity training, data protection workflows, and email security solutions can minimize breaches caused by employee negligence.
Disgruntled employees, corporate spies, or staff looking to profit from selling data intentionally cause malicious insider breaches. Strict access controls, monitoring systems, and employee screening minimize this threat.
Sophisticated, targeted attacks by hackers over an extended period also lead to breaches. Keeping software patched and updated, monitoring suspicious activity, and using threat intelligence helps counter such advanced threats.
Data breaches can have severe consequences for both individuals and organizations. Some significant impacts include:
Data breaches often involve sensitive information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, and bank account details. This puts individuals at risk of financial losses from fraud and identity theft. According to one estimate, the average cost per stolen record is around $150.
For organizations, data breaches can also lead to significant costs due to forensic investigations, legal liability, regulatory fines, and loss of customer trust. The average total cost of a data breach is close to $4 million.
Depending on the type of data compromised, organizations may have legal obligations under regulations like HIPAA and GDPR. Violations can result in heavy fines and penalties. There may also be lawsuits from customers whose data was exposed.
At the state level, data breach notification laws require organizations to notify impacted individuals. Law enforcement may get involved in cases of intentional attacks and data theft.
Data breaches often generate negative publicity that can harm a company’s reputation and customer trust. According to one survey, 31% of customers said they would stop engaging with a brand after a breach.
Restoring your reputation after a breach requires transparency, accountability, and demonstration of enhanced security measures to prevent future incidents.
Now let’s focus on ways to avoid data breaches happening to your business:
- Encryption and Tokenization: Encrypting sensitive data and using tokenization to replace data elements with symbols can make stolen information inaccessible to attackers.
- Firewall and Anti-malware Protection: Firewalls and anti-malware software help block malicious intrusions, malware infections, and unauthorized access attempts.
- Role-Based Access Control: Restricting access to data based on user roles and responsibilities limits exposure and prevents abuse of privileges.
- Two-Factor Authentication: Requiring an additional verification step like OTPs or biometrics when logging in prevents credential-based breaches.
- Network Segmentation: Segmenting networks into subnetworks helps contain breaches and prevents lateral movement of attacks.
Training staff on security best practices and how to spot social engineering attacks greatly reduces error-based breaches. Simulated phishing attack exercises help you evaluate vulnerabilities.
For over a decade, our team has helped clients across industries keep their data out of the hands of cybercriminals. If you’re looking to bolster your defenses, contact Team Burkhart today to discuss our managed security services and how they can help you.