Despite major cyber-attacks making headlines every month or so, several businesses are far behind the curve when it comes to protecting themselves from malicious entities online.
It’s no wonder hackers are easily breaching the average organization – June 2021 alone saw 106 data breaches which led to 9.8 million exposed records. This implies that if a company underinvests in security, there’s a high chance it will face a data breach – or will be compromised through data breaches in partner organizations.
With the growing number of data breaches, businesses must not only understand the impact and scale of breaches, butinvest in IT experts such as EC-MSP to stay ahead of the curve.
Here’s everything you need to know about data breaches, including how they originate and how your business can best steer clear of them.
3 Types of Breaches: Physical, Skimming, and Electronic
IT experts classify data breaches into three broad categories: physical, skimming, and electronic.
While they share similar risks and consequences, they’re quite different in execution. It’s essential to recognize the differences between data breaches,asthey requireunique countermeasures (i.e., document shredding) to maintain data security.
A physical breach entails the physical theft of equipment or documents comprising cardholder data; for instance, files, POS systems, and cardholder receipts. Considered a form of corporate espionage, items at risk include external hard drives, laptops, and desktops.
Preventing this kind of attack can be achievedwith access control and security measures. It’s worth noting that you should destroy or wipe storage drives as soon as they are taken out of usage.
Old computers and forgotten hard drives that accumulate in storage are vulnerable to physical breaches and often go unnoticed when stolen.
This type of attack involves the recording and capture of magnetically stored data on the back of magnetic stripe cards, such as security access cards or credit cards. The process involves an external device that criminals install on a merchant’s point of sale (POS) without them knowing.
Sometimes, a rogue employee can use an external device to obtain data from a card’s magnetic stripe. These thieves then gather data and use it to produce counterfeit debit and credit cards.
Some guidelines for decreasing the likelihood of skimming include:
- Monitoring card handling closely when employees possess credit cards frequently out of the cardholder’s view
- Examining equipment for skimming devices or tampering proof regularly
- Ensuring you aren’t using a susceptible Point-of-Sale terminal by contacting your card processing service provider
An electronic breach denotes a deliberate attack or unauthorized access on a network or system environment where user data is processed, transmitted, or stored. This can be the outcome of obtaining access through websites or web servers to a systems’ susceptibilities through application-level attacks.
For instance, breaches frequently target the healthcare industry since accessing these networks exposes patient billing data. Experts recommend that businesses encrypt their data, making it hard to decipher in case of unauthorized access.
Encryption applies to files on active computers, but it’s essential to implement shredding of hard drives and destruction of electronic media before disposing of electronic devices.
Remember: it’s possible to hack encryptions, but shredded drives can’t expose anything.
Sources of Data Breaches
While breaches are difficult to prevent, it doesn’t mean they’re hard to anticipate.
Nearly all incidents arise due to the following:
Stolen and Weak Credentials
Stolen passwords are one of the most common and simplest sources of breaches. After all, manyusersimplementthe same predictable phrases for all their passwords, which implies that criminals don’t have to struggle to access sensitive information.
Hackers can even crack moderately secure passwords using computer programs that run through popular credentials. Therefore, you must consider your password carefully. You’re equally susceptible if you leave your password written somewhere physically or use a similar phrase for numerous accounts.
Malware shows justhow simple cybercrime can be.
In this case, criminals buy malicious software, locate a system that has a known susceptibility, and reap the rewards after installing malware.
The rewards will depend on the malware type. It could range from a keylogger, which tracks what users type to ransomware, locks their systems, and demands payment for users to regain access. The Darknet market alone contains thousands of illegal malware solutions for sale and can be accessed with relative ease (we don’t recommend this, however, as you’re just as likely to receive malware yourself!)
Organizations constantly ignore the threat their own personnel pose. However, 1 in 12 breaches arise from a staff member using data improperly – odds that should be taken seriously.
This occurs in two key ways:
Privilege Abuse or Misuse
The first is through privilege abuse, in which workers misuse the information to which they have legitimate access. This might not necessarily be for malicious reasons;the worker might have stumbled upon the information accidentally. This canoccur if an organization lacks properly set access controls. Alternatively, a worker could overlook access policies. For instance, this can happen when a worker alters a document without adopting the appropriate procedure.
The second common kind of privilege misuse is data mishandling, whereby an unauthorized employee copies, shares, and accesses sensitive information.
All software has technical susceptibilities that criminals can exploit in various ways. That’s why organizations that maintainsuchprograms should routinely seek and address exploits before criminals find a way to sneak in.
Whenever a vulnerability is addressed, the software provider issues a patch which organizations need toapply when updating the program. This should be donepromptly because criminals areactively searching for organizations facing threat exposure.
Workers don’t need to act maliciously to breach data. They might make a simple mistake; for instance, including the wrong individual in the CC section of an email, losing a laptop, or the accidental attachment of a sensitive document.
Ways to Prevent Data Breaches
Fighting ignorance is an effective way of preventing data breaches, so you must educate employees on how to prevent data loss without compromise.
You can achieve this by helping them recognize and understand the importance of creating strong passwords. They should also understand the frequency of changing passwords as well as how to identify and report phishing scams and suspicious activity.
An inventory of the software and hardware assets you have in your physical infrastructure and network canhelp you obtain a greater understanding of your company’s security posture.
You can use asset inventory to build ratings and categories around the vulnerabilities and threats your assets might encounter. Ratings and categories for these susceptibilities can help you prioritize the remediation endeavors for these assets, if needed.
An extensive endpoint solution will 1) adopt encryption to prevent data leakage and loss, and2) implement unified protection across all your networks, servers, and endpoints – thus decreasing the likelihood of a data breach.
While data breach prevention might seem tedious, if you adopt a layered security approach with different policies, procedures, and measures to mitigate threats, your company will be in a better state than if you remain slack.
Stay vigilant, keep your systems and employees up to date, and you should minimize the effects of any attempted data breach.