A data breach has been a major concern for a while, and this blog looks at how to prevent a data breach. It seems like we always hear a headline that screams that an organization somewhere has experienced a data breach, putting their business, customers, and partners at risk. To keep your business out of the news, you need to understand how data breaches occur and ways you can mitigate the threats they cause.
In our digitized environment today, securing important data is a top priority for most companies. With the regular rise in the number and sophistication of malware attacks, businesses need to establish effective security measures to make sure that their databases and networks are secured.
Even though it is possible to prevent hackers from targeting your business, you can stop them from getting their hands on your vital data and using it for their selfish gain.
When it comes to data breaches, there are no small fish, big fish, or hiding places. Almost every type of company – including yours can fall victim. All it takes is one employee thinking a phishing attempt is legitimate, to put your organization at risk.
Based on statistics, data breaches are increasing and can cause devastating, long-term financial and reputational repercussions to any business. The cost of a data breach is estimated to sum up to $4 million in the US alone.
There are various ways that data breaches can occur. You need to have a multifaceted approach to be successful in preventing data breaches in your organization.
How to Prevent a Data Breach: What is a data breach?
A data breach exposes sensitive, confidential, or protected information to an unauthorized individual, who can then view or share the files without permission. Anyone can be at risk of such an attack; from individuals to high-level companies and government entities.
Information security and data security are mostly compromised, leading to sensitive data being exposed, copied, transmitted, viewed, or stolen. Generally, data breaches happen due to weaknesses in:
- User behavior
As our smartphones and computers get more connective features, there are various places for data to slip through.
How to Prevent a Data Breach: How does a data breach occur?
It is often assumed that data breaches are caused by an outside hacker, however, that is not always the case. Reasons for how data breaches occur might be traced back to intentional attacks. But it can just as easily be caused by a simple oversight by employees or flaws in the infrastructure of an organization. Below are ways that data breaches occur:
- An insider: For instance, when an employee uses the computer of a co-worker and reads files without having the right authorization. But since it was viewed by an unauthorized individual, the data is considered breached.
- A malicious insider: It happens when a person intentionally accesses or shares data to cause harm to an individual or organization. The insider may have a right to use the data, but might intend using it in negative ways.
- Lost devices: A laptop or external hard drive that is unencrypted and unlocked can contain sensitive information that an attacker can use against the owner.
- A malicious outsider: They are hackers that use different attack vectors to get information from a network.
How to Prevent a Data Breach: Should you be concerned about data breaches?
Regardless of the size of your business, you need to be worried about data breaches and do your best to prevent them.
In most cases, when data breaches occur, it’s because it happened at a big multinational organization. This can make small businesses have a false sense of security; however, in reality, small businesses are as much at risk of data breaches as big organizations.
How to Prevent a Data Breach: Targets that a cyber-attacker looks for
- Financial information such as credit card numbers and passwords
- Personal data such as social security numbers
- Personally identifiable information (PII) such as social media accounts and phone numbers
- General data that is important to a company organization or its competitors
How to Prevent a Data Breach: Prevention of data breaches
1. Reduce access to sensitive data
In the past, every employee could access all the files of their company on their computer. But today, business owners are learning the hard way, to reduce access to their important data. After all, there’s no reason for a mailroom worker to look at the financial information of customers.
When you limit access to sensitive information, you narrow the number of employees who might accidentally click on a malicious link. As you go into the future, partition your records so that only those who specifically need access will have them.
2. Regularly update your software
It is recommended that you should keep all your application software and operating systems updated. Whenever patches are available, ensure that you install them. Your network becomes vulnerable when applications are not regularly patched and updated.
3. Secure and backup your data
Many businesses depend on cloud storage to back up their company data. But they may not understand how their data is protected. When you go through the service agreement of your cloud storage provider, you’ll understand the security measures they use, including the steps they take to safeguard the data of businesses, people that are authorized to access it, and what happens to the data if you decide to end your agreement.
When choosing a cloud storage provider for your data, the most important factor you should consider is the robustness of their cyber security measures.
4. Hire a cyber-security specialist
Even though as a business owner, your aim should be on reducing expenses to the barest minimum, hiring a cyber-security specialist will help boost the cyber resiliency of your company. The specialist will review your whole data network and business functionalities and determine the appropriate security strategy, technique, and tools that will give your organization the highest level of security.
You should regularly carry out vulnerability assessments to detect the weak points in your security strategy. Doing so will enable you to detect places that hackers will most likely exploit and take precautions to safeguard your data and network.
5. Educate your workers
One of the best ways to prevent data breaches is to fight ignorance among your employees. You must educate them on how to protect data from being hacked. You can do this by helping them understand ways they can create stronger passwords, how often they need to change those passwords, and help them detect, avoid, and report scams and other suspicious activities.
Recent surveys show that employees are the weakest link in the data security chain. Despite them undergoing training, they open suspicious emails daily that could potentially download viruses to your network.
One mistake business owners make is thinking that one cyber security training is enough; if you’re serious about preventing data breaches, schedule regular classes for your employees. Marketing studies show that most individuals need to listen to the same message at least seven times before it changes how they act.
6. Create strong passwords
Previously, organizations rarely got involved with how often their staff members had to change their passwords. But cyber breaches happening recently have changed this. When security experts come to your company to train your employees, one thing they will always mention is the importance of regularly changing all passwords.
Most of the public now knows the importance of making passwords hard to guess. Even on computers at home, we have learned to use numbers, upper case letters, and special characters when creating passwords. Make it as difficult as possible for attackers to break in and steal your stuff.
How to Prevent a Data Breach: The damage data breaches can do
Most times, data breaches can’t just be patched up by changing some passwords. Data breaches can cause lasting problems for your finances, reputation, finances, and so on.
- For individuals: One major threat to data breach victims is identity theft. Data leaks can show everything from social security numbers to banking details. Once an attacker has your details, he or she can engage in all types of fraud by using your name. This can ruin your credit, cause legal issues for you, and it is hard to fight back against.
- For businesses: A data breach can have a devastating effect on the reputation and financial bottom line of a company. Large organizations like Yahoo, Equifax, Google, and Target, for instance, have been victims of data breach attacks. And today, some people remember them for the data breach incident itself, and not their actual business operations.
- For government entities: When government data gets compromised, it can mean exposing highly confidential data to foreign parties. Political dealings, military operations, and details of vital national infrastructure can pose a major threat to a country.
How to Prevent a Data Breach: Conclusion
The best way you can protect yourself against the nightmare and cost of data breaches is to prevent them. The data of your company is one of its most valuable resources. Protecting it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, however, you should do it right.
Strengthen the data security practices of your business by implementing some or all of the practices mentioned above. It may appear like a tedious task to prevent data breaches. But if you take a layered approach to security with different policies, measures, and procedures you’ll be in a much better state than if you allow your company to remain slack.