IT Security

IT Security: Why Data Breaches Happen and What Can You Do About It?

IT security

Recovering from a cybersecurity breach isn’t easy especially for smaller-sized businesses. A cyber-attack could be deadly for smaller-sized businesses as they don’t have various revenue streams or financial resources that large companies have. This is why a solid IT security system must be implemented in small and large-scale organizations.

The potential risks of cyber-attacks should not be taken lightly as the consequences would be massive. Remember, your brand image and business reputation are at stake here.

People may have reached the point of desensitization to news citing a data breach, but protecting user data has become increasingly crucial amid stricter regulation implementation. Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements, companies are required to announce that their systems have been breached. They are also required to pay fines that can reach up to 4% of their annual turnover should they deal with the data belonging to the European Union (EU) citizens.

IT Security: What is a Data Breach?

A data breach occurs when a cybercriminal effectively extracts sensitive information and infiltrates a data source. This can be done by accessing a network or computer to steal local files or by remotely bypassing network security protocols. Stealing local files is often the method used to target companies.

The following information are the steps usually involved in a typical breach operation:

  • Attack – The perpetrator makes initial contact using either a social or a network attack.
  • Social/Network Attack – A network attack occurs when the attacker uses the system, infrastructure, and application vulnerabilities to infiltrate an organization’s network. An employee can be tricked into sharing his/her login credentials or maybe duped into opening a malicious attachment.
  • Research – The attacker looks for vulnerabilities in the company’s security (network, people, or systems).
  • Exfiltration – Once the perpetrator gets into one computer, he/she can then attack the network and tunnel his/her way to confidential company data. Once the attackers extract the data, the attack is considered successful.

Why Data Breaches Occur?

A data breach can be a disaster for many businesses and can be the end for some. The compromising of important customer information and internal business data such as transaction history, inventory lists, and other privileged information is an event no business wants to go through.

The first step in preventing a data breach from happening is to know what causes a data breach. These are the top reasons why data breaches happen:

  • Old, Unpatched Security Vulnerabilities

Information security specialists have been collecting information for years on the exploitations that attackers have successfully used on companies in numerous countries. These exploits are sorted into hundreds of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) to identify them for future reference.

Unfortunately, many of these security mishaps go unfixed for long periods. According to Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report, “99.9% of the exploited vulnerabilities had been compromised more than a year after the associated CVE was published”.

Leaving these old, unpatched security vulnerabilities unfixed gives attackers a free pass to your company’s most valuable data.

  • Human Error

One of the biggest sources of a data breach is a human error. Human error accounts for 52% of the root causes of security breaches. Some scenarios of human error include:

  1. The use of weak passwords
  2. Sharing sensitive information to the wrong recipients
  3. Sharing password/account information
  4. Falling for phishing scams

Many of these human errors can be prevented by making sure employees are aware of their basic data security measures.

  • Malware

Malware isn’t just an issue for personal computers at the homes of employees. It’s a continuous threat aimed directly at your company’s systems. According to the Verizon DBIR 2015, “5 malware events occur every second.”

There exists a huge amount of variation between malware samples and the sheer number of malware events can be worrying.

  • Insider Misuse

While this one is closely related to a human mishap, this cause of company data is more insidious in nature. While human error is an innocent mistake or accident, insider misuse is the deliberate abuse of your company’s systems by an unauthorized user.

The main problem here is that someone in whom your organization has placed trust is doing the malicious act. Unfortunately, catching insider abuse is not easy. Usually, insider abuse is discovered only during a thorough examination of user devices after individuals left a company.

While preventing an inside job is nearly impossible, damage can be minimized through compartmentalization of information on your cloud or network. Limit files and system access to a single user to make it harder for them to abuse their access.

How Can You Help Minimize The Damage Caused by A Data Breach?

To lessen the impact of cyber-attacks, being prepared is the best way to do. Compile contact information of IT specialists and/or technical experts to assist you in creating a plan in preventing a cyber-attack.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for a potential breach:

  • Communicate and notify clients and employees that were potentially affected.
  • Since normal communication services may have been impacted by the breach, make sure to have an alternative communication strategy. Educate your employees about cybersecurity so they know how to handle the situation.
  • Enable encryption on all devices including laptops, phones, tablets, external drives, and desktops.

Need More Information About IT Security Issues?

There’s no concrete way to deal with IT security issues but there are certain things you can do to prevent further damage. If you need more information about how you can improve your IT systems better, we have tons of IT Security resources that can walk you through the process.