Data exchange between businesses and customers is necessary for building strong online relationships.
Users constantly receive requests to fork over information, expecting businesses to use it responsibly. These exchanges can lead to excellent results, allowing customers to access services and apps pivotal to daily life. However, data exchange has a dark side: data breaches.
Online attacks happen at an average of once every 39 seconds. Typically, criminals launch these attacks to snatch medical, financial, and highly sensitive information.
It’s up to business owners to protect employee and client data from digital thieves. Not to mention, protecting data is necessary to avoid the devastating financial cost of a data breach and irretrievable loss of reputational damage.
Different types of data breaches happen constantly, but they don’t have to be inevitable. Understanding security breaches is the first step to avoiding catastrophe. From there, businesses can actively address security issues and provide customers peace of mind about their relationship with your business.
What Is a Data Breach?
Cyberattacks pose a severe threat, regardless of a business’s size. But small businesses are unique targets, as they often have weaker defense mechanisms and little to no cybersecurity plan in place. In fact, 43% of all data breaches target small businesses, and over 60% of businesses hit with data breaches collapse within six months of the attack.
So, what even is a data breach? It’s an important question that many business owners don’t take seriously until it’s too late.
Essentially, a data breach is when unauthorized individuals access sensitive or confidential information, either stealing it for profit or holding it for ransom. However, breaches come in many forms, and it’s essential to understand the most common attack methods.
Common Types of Data Breaches and Attacks
To defend against attacks, you must prepare for them, but hackers often use a multi-pronged approach to stealing data. Below is a breakdown of the most popular cybersecurity threats.
You’ve probably received a phishy email at some point. For instance, you might see an urgent subject line followed by demands to click or download a file. This is called spear phishing, and it’s done through SMS as well.
Phishing has one goal: to get individuals to fork over credentials, such as logins or financial details, through deceptive emails, websites, or messages. Once shared, hackers can waltz into networks and data repositories to take sensitive information. These are highly common, as over three billion phishing emails are sent daily.
Malware is probably the most popular tool among cyber attackers. Malware attacks spread viruses via software or harmful code injections, and they’re meant to infect a system, network, or server. Once the code is in place, they can steal data, disrupt operations, and even freeze operations.
The most common malware threats include:
An insider threat occurs when someone nefariously uses their authorized access to sensitive information, code, or files. For instance, an employee might steal or sell their company’s sensitive data. A surprising 31% of data breaches come from insider threats.
Brute Force Attacks
These attacks are fairly simple: Hackers use trial-and-error methods to try various password combinations or encryption keys until they find the correct one. Once in, they can access, harvest, or eliminate data.
It’s a common misconception that data breaches are purely digital attacks. Data breaches can also occur when physical devices containing sensitive data, such as laptops or external hard drives, are stolen or lost.
Data Breach Consequences
There’s a reason most businesses don’t recover from cyber attacks: They’re expensive. The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. was $9.48 million in 2023. However, the toll of a breach is more than monetary loss from downtime and ransoms. The cost takes many forms, including:
- Financial impacts: In addition to fines, businesses may face litigation costs, regulatory penalties, and loss of revenue.
- Legal obligations: Data protection laws will fine businesses for failing to comply with regulations, depending on where you live.
- Reputational damage: Data breaches have totally tarnished company images and reputations and eroded customer trust and loyalty.
- Loss of intellectual property: Intellectual property, especially code, is often a business’s most valuable asset, making it a target for theft.
Data Breach Prevention Basics
There’s no way around it: Businesses must take measures to defend themselves — otherwise, the results can be ruinous. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t understand the basics of data protection, which is why breaches are commonplace.
One misconception about cybersecurity is that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution. In reality, it’s a combination of essential measures that fashion a proactive security approach.
It all begins with awareness. Business owners must acknowledge all types of data breaches as an imminent threat to identify weaknesses and security gaps.
Once aware, business owners and employees should stay abreast of the latest cybersecurity trends and threats. This is where formal education and security processes come into play. All employees, at all levels, should receive routine training on security best practices, such as:
- How to identify phishing scams
- How to prevent data breaches through secure passwords
- The importance of two-factor authentication
- Why it’s essential to avoid sharing sensitive information
- How to report suspicious activity
Methods To Protect Against Data Breaches
Aside from awareness and education, there are also technical measures to implement. But you must use these measures strategically to build a cohesive security vision.
Only 50% of small businesses have a strategic cybersecurity plan in place. Often, it’s because these businesses can’t afford full-fledged security teams. However, as we’ll explain below, you can outsource many security responsibilities to third parties at affordable rates.
Never equip a user with more access than needed. It’s wise both for your sake and for theirs.
Because poor access control is a top culprit for allowing insider threats, always implement strict access controls and regularly review and update user permissions. Additionally, improper access increases the likelihood of user error in things like source code, exposing businesses to malware attacks.
With access control, use the concept of least privilege. This outlines and ranks the minimum level of access necessary for each employee’s role, guaranteeing nobody can access data that’s not in their purview.
Regular Data Backups
To protect your data, back it up on a daily basis at a minimum.
Automated backup tools keep you on a regular schedule so you can quickly recover all your information when a breach occurs. Having software that does your backups for you can provide peace of mind that you won’t be paying devastating ransomware fees anytime soon.
Software and systems must keep up with the latest security patches and updates to eliminate code vulnerabilities. Good patch management actions include:
- Updating software, devices, and network tools
- Identifying coding errors
- Deploying new, safe code
One of the main avenues of exploitation is known vulnerabilities in outdated software. This is especially true in malware attacks and SQL injections. Thankfully, a good patch management tool significantly reduces weaknesses in code and does so automatically.
Strong Password Policies and Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
Train employees to use complex, unique passwords for all accounts and implement mandatory password changes regularly. Also, use a quality password manager to help store and generate strong passwords.
MFA adds another essential security layer, requiring users to provide two or more verification factors before login. For example, on top of a password, they could be required to provide a one-time code sent to their mobile device. MFA can eliminate brute force attacks and even prevent phishing scammers from getting far enough to steal sensitive information.
Firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)
A security-first mindset is one that’s proactive, which is why firewalls exist. Install and configure firewalls and IDS to monitor network traffic for suspicious activity and block potential threats before they spring up. Also, ensure you update firewalls continuously so they can keep up with new threats and identification methods.
Encryption and Obfuscation
We mentioned that malware hackers prey on weak code. Encryption techniques jumble code to make it incredibly difficult to decipher. Even if unauthorized users access the code through brute force or identity theft, the code they are reading is illegible., meaning hackers can’t inject malware.
Common encryption and obfuscation techniques include:
- Dead-code insertion
- Removing superfluous code
- Register reassignment
Conduct Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing
Conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your systems. These tests are a crucial part of proactively assessing your vulnerabilities.
For example, black box penetration testing is when a business hires a team to simulate a full-scale attack that has no prior knowledge of the business’s security structure. This test analyzes privacy from all potential angles, is incredibly thorough, and is the best way for companies to uncover unforeseen weaknesses.
Receive the ISO 27001 Certification
The ISO 27001 Certification is an internationally recognized framework for information security management systems.
Obtaining an ISO 27001 certification is an excellent way for organizations to showcase their dedication to data security and structured approaches to safeguarding client information. It also provides peace of mind by having a trustworthy organization analyze your strategy and hold it accountable to strict testing.
Invest in the Best Data Privacy Protection
When it comes to hacking prevention against the different types of data breaches out there, half-measures won’t do. If your operation doesn’t already have a robust, structured cybersecurity plan, you need to act fast.
Consider ISOutsource as your partner for helping achieve your security goals. Our services span a wide range of cybersecurity and consulting offerings, including:
- Backup and disaster recovery plans
- Governance, risk, and compliance strategy
- Vulnerability assessments and management
- Phishing protection
- Penetration testing
We’re a trusted security partner and consultant for businesses of all sizes and scopes. At all hours, we’re ready to protect the digital assets our clients rely on to see their businesses prosper and grow. Contact us today to learn how we can help you stand out as a security leader in your industry.