The Complete Guide on Data Breaches and How to Address Them

Data breaches are commonplace. On the individual level or at an organizational level, we’re all at risk of becoming victims of data breaches. Even if you take all your precautions on the individual level, you can never be guaranteed not to become a victim of a data breach. Why? This is because we’re always interacting with big data on some level – whether you have a bank account, interact with healthcare services, do a bit of online shopping, or just spend some time on social media.

Every organization is connected to the digital world. All the data that you provide to these companies sit on a server somewhere – a server that’s connected to the World Wide Web. This makes it vulnerable, unless those servers are located in a veritable digital Fort Knox. And the truth is, they’re really not.

Big companies take all the precautions that they can to ensure that their data (and your data) stays safe but data breaches occur so often that we often don’t even hear about them until they’re really serious. They even use services to ensure their data remain intact and private. Big companies, individuals, and even small-to-medium business owners need to become aware of the threat of a data breach and how to prevent them from happening as early on as possible.

Should My Company Be Concerned with Data Breaches?

What is a data breach to begin with? This is when safe or private/confidential information is released to an untrusted environment, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When a data breach makes the headlines, it usually happens at a huge corporation like Facebook, Google, or Equifax. In reality, Yahoo has been hit by a slew of major data breaches around the world. This might give small firms a false sense of security, yet data breaches affect small firms just as much as they affect huge organizations. Even small firms have important data that cyber thieves can exploit.

These include employees’ birthdates, Social Security numbers, and first and last names. Collectively, these are a broad definition of what constitutes personally identifiable information (PII). Small businesses also keep information like email addresses, phone numbers, and passwords of clients, along with account and routing numbers related to banking information. We can’t forget to mention credit card numbers.

So, small businesses are just as much a target as a large organization is due to the fact that they do hold on to very sensitive information, as well. However, while larger organizations tend to invest more in tighter cybersecurity, smaller businesses often don’t have the resources to do so. This makes them an easier target to hit, in many cases.

How Does a Data Breach Happen?

When hackers get access to data and sensitive information, a data breach has occurred. These breaches of security cost a lot of money, not to mention a loss of trust from the public who trusted the organization with their highly sensitive information. According to IBM’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average total cost of a data breach is $3.86 million, not including the unquantifiable reputational harm. It also takes up time. According to IBM, detecting and properly containing a compromise takes an average of 280 days. These are huge numbers, making the idea of a data breach all the scarier. It goes without saying then, that the best course of action here would be to follow the “prevention is better than cure” route.

But where to begin? The best place to start would be to understand how these breaches occur before trying to prevent them. These are the three most common ways that data breaches happen.

Social Engineering

A solid data breach prevention plan includes safeguarding your company from internet security threats. At this point, you’ve likely heard of phishing, which occurs when hackers send malicious emails that appear to be legitimate in order to get access to crucial information.

They might, for example, pop you an email that appears to come from your company’s IT department, demanding that a staff member’s password be changed so that they can access their accounts. These scams can take the shape of emails or phone calls, and they assist scammers in gaining access to personal information, which they subsequently sell or use to conduct fraud.

Human Error

Malicious behavior isn’t necessarily the cause of data breaches. In fact, malicious attacks account for only roughly half of all breaches. Accidents happen, and sometimes a person just leaves important information in an unprotected location or transmits it to the wrong person by mistake.

Physical Actions

Hackers are not always these quick-thinking, sly thieves who only access data remotely. Physical activities are also a typical technique for them to gain access. They could, for example, take documents, laptops, phones, or storage devices. They could even gain physical access to assets and copy them without anyone knowing.

How do we start to prevent data breaches occurring on all levels, then?

Create Awareness

A shift in mindset is critical. As mentioned, successful hacks often rely on social engineering. As a result, while dealing with unexpected email communications, for example, skepticism and caution are essential. Hackers are resourceful and inventive.

Educate Employees about Data Protection

The best thing a company can do is train its personnel on how to encrypt data, create strong passwords, correctly file and preserve data, and avoid viruses on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to restrict employee access to websites that aren’t related to their everyday tasks. Your best defense is a well-educated workforce.

Business and Personal Accounts Should be Separate

Maintain separate email accounts for business, personal, and financial purposes. Someone can’t access your company or banking website if they get your personal email and password from a personal site. Keep an eye on anything you allow to be uploaded or associated with your machines, and remember to encrypt everything.

Invest in Remote Monitoring

Remote monitoring keeps an eye on your network 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can collaborate with a managed IT services provider to avoid having to hire IT professionals to monitor your systems around the clock.

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