A data breach occurs when sensitive and confidential information is exposed to unauthorized persons. They mostly happen when malicious cybercriminals infiltrate a system, thereby extracting sensitive information. Data breaches can occur in multi-level corporations, governments, or individuals. No matter where they occur, breaches are incredibly costly to the victims.
The typical steps most cybercriminals follow during breach operations are:
- They identify any possible vulnerabilities in the security system. The vulnerabilities could be found via the people, network, or systems.
- They make initial contact with either a network or social attack.
- They make use of weaknesses in infrastructure and applications to attack the company’s networks. For instance, this approach could involve baiting employees to surrender access information.
- Once the hackers gain access to one computer in the network, they infiltrate said network and find their way to the protected data. A data breach operation is considered successful after the hackers get the data in their hands.
For any organization, a data breach can be incredibly crippling. Exposure to internal business data and client information can cause untold financial losses. It could also ruin the reputation of an organization, causing long-term losses.
The first step in data breach prevention? Understanding how exactly data breaches happen.
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How Do Data Breaches Work?
Most of us think that all cybercriminals are tech-savvy hackers who attack by accessing information remotely. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In some instances (which are uncommon), confidential data is accessed from the physical theft of devices that hold sensitive information. Devices like desktops, phones, tablets, and hard drives can be stolen or have data copied from them without anyone knowing.
Another common data breach that stems from physical action is card skimming. During this approach, cybercriminals can put a device on ATMs and card readers to access the card information. The extent of damage caused by this kind of data breach depends on the amount and nature of the information stored in the devices. The more sensitive the information is, the more severe the data breach is.
With social engineering attacks, cybercriminals manipulate people to surrender confidential information. They can take the form of phishing attacks, where cybercriminals send out malicious emails that seem legitimate, with the goal of accessing sensitive data. Once they have access to your computer, criminals can install malicious software secretly. This software makes it easier for them to access confidential data that they can use inappropriately or to commit fraud.
Another common form of a social engineering attack is pretexting. Here, the cybercriminals are bold enough to contact their victims by phone or email to request personal financial details.
Some breaches occur without there being any malicious activity; in fact, they occur due to mistakes made by employees and accidental human errors.
One of the most common mistakes is sending sensitive information to the wrong recipients. Another frequent human error is called misconfiguration. Misconfiguration involves accidentally leaving a database with confidential information online without any password protection.
Criminal hacking is the top cause of data breaches. It tends to be the most common because hackers often need to perform specific attacks to achieve their goals, such as using malware or SQL injections to hack systems.
The most common criminal hacking technique uses stolen credentials that can be accessed on the dark web or cracked using password-generating software and machines.
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Best Practices for Preventing a Data Breach
1. Conduct Regular Risk Assessments
You may have a cybersecurity strategy already in place in your organization. However, that does not make your data completely safe because hackers are constantly devising new methods to locate any vulnerabilities in the system. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct regular vulnerability assessments and cybersecurity audits to be sure the policies in place are robust enough to keep the bad guys locked out.
2. Employee Awareness
Employees play a huge role in preventing data breaches. When staff is not informed of the best practices to avoid data breaches, they are more likely to be the most significant vulnerability in data security. Employee awareness ensures that they can appreciate cybersecurity and know how to detect any threats to the system security, as well as what to do in case of an attempted attack.
3. Use Updated Software
It is necessary to update your operating systems and application software regularly to reduce the weak spots that hackers can exploit to attack. Ensure that you install patches any time they are available. Outdated and unpatched software makes your network vulnerable to attacks.
4. Acquire an SSL Certificate
Most hackers get access to sensitive information by compromising the client-server connection. With an SSL certificate, the information sent across a network is encrypted, making it unreadable to anyone other than the rightful recipients.
SSL certificates provide data encryption and data integrity by ensuring that the data is not corrupted. Also, they authenticate data by ensuring that only people with proper authentication can access the data. SSL certificates are available in different kinds and at varying validation levels.
If you need to secure single domains along with their subdomains, it is advisable to buy a Comodo Positive SSL Wildcard. It is a cost-effective and a convenient way for companies to secure single domain and unlimited subdomains quickly under the same certificate.
5. Have a Breach Response Plan
It is vital to have a framework that can be used to recover from an attempted breach. This strategy helps to manage damages from an attack and restore public trust if an attack does occur.
6. Perform Regular Backups
No system can boast of being completely immune from all kinds of cyber-attacks or data losses. Data loss is quite common, and it can be crippling for a company or individual. A proper backup strategy helps to mitigate the damages from a data breach. When you have backups, it is easy to restore operations, and it saves you a lot of money in case of a ransomware attack. Data backup should be done regularly. The more sensitive the data is, the more frequently it should be backed up. You could automate the backup process to ensure that you are prompt in backing up important data. Also, your backup strategy should be redundant. This way, you always have a working copy if one of the backup copies fails.
Finally, ensure that the recovery process is quick and smooth to ensure that you can get back to regular operations as swiftly as possible in the wake of a cyber-attack.
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The Bottom Line
Data breaches are becoming more common, with hackers looking for new ways to steal information for their gain. In addition, they can be very frustrating because of the damages they cause. Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of data breach prevention techniques to ensure that your data is safe.