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Recently, there seems like no day passes by without news about data breaches. On 19th May 2020, EasyJet reported data breach activities that exposed about 9 million travelers’ personal information. Hackers can quickly get you through the internet, text messages, Bluetooth, or the online services you use, meaning that everyone is at risk.

Even small businesses are increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks since most people are unaware of how modern security threats operate. Understanding how cybersecurity happens and its causes are the first steps to keeping your company safe. Read on to gain more insights.

What Is A Data Breach?

It’s a security incident where unauthorized individuals gain access to an organization’s protected information. The stolen data may include trade secrets, credit cards, personal health information, social security numbers, or national security matters. It generally happens due to user behavior or weakness in technology.

Connecting gadgets to multiple features create loopholes that encourage cybersecurity. Some digital tools are even in operation with minimal security testing. Even after setting up the technology appropriately, some poor digital habits can compromise your organization’s security. All it takes is for a single team member to fall for phishing traps.

Hackers mostly sell the information on the black market to make profits. They can also use the data to commit fraud, particularly with medical or educational information. With the stolen data, the criminals can target employees and trick them into making payments.

How Does A Data Breach Occur

For targeted attacks, the hackers first research a company’s security, people system, or networks to look for weakness. The attacker then makes initial contact with the organization through social attacks. It means using system, application, or infrastructure weaknesses to infiltrate an organization. They can also trick employees into opening malicious attachments or baiting them into sharing a company’s information.

Once the cybercriminal gets access to a single computer within an organization, they can attack the entire network and gain their way to confidential data. It’s worth noting that a data breach isn’t always a result of an outsider hacker. Sometimes it can happen due to some inside activities.

When a team member uses a colleague’s computer to access files without authorization, a data breach has already occurred, even if they won’t share the information. Again, a trusted staff member can purposefully access and share sensitive data to harm an individual or the entire company. Other times, an unencrypted device with sensitive information might get lost or disposed of improperly. When such information lands in the wrong people’s hands, it might lead to a security breach.

Causes of Data Vulnerability

Without comprehensive security at the user end and the enterprise level, most companies are at risk of cybercrimes. Beware of the following causes of a data breach to learn how to protect your company.

Malware

If your software, hardware, servers, or operating systems contain security flaws, cybercriminals can use them to send malware. It involves sending malicious software into an organization’s network, creating easy access to your company to steal vital information. The attackers achieve this by luring your employees into opening malware attachments or redirecting them to vulnerable sites.

Physical Data Theft

If your building is unsafe or insecure, hackers can work their way into your company to access your system. They can physically steal devices like laptops, tablets, hard drives, smartphones, CDs, DVDs, desktops, or thumb drives. The severity of a data breach will depend on the nature of the information stored in the devices.

Weak Credentials

Hacking is the most common cause of security breaches, and it mainly happens if you have weak passwords. The hackers have several software tools that they can use to guess your credentials. Such inventions have made it possible to work through all the possibilities of your password faster. If you have a simple whole word password, it might only take few seconds until they get it right. You are also very vulnerable if you use the same credentials for multiple accounts.

Applications Vulnerabilities

Outdated software, poorly designed or implemented network systems gives cybercriminals a free pass into your company’s sensitive information.

User Error

Sometimes, employees might make mistakes that can compromise your company’s security. One example of such mistakes is including the wrong person in a Cc email field while attaching sensitive files.

Others might leave documents online without password restrictions. Additionally, when employees bring their mobile phones to work, they can easily download malware-laden applications giving hackers access to work-related emails or personally identifiable information (PII) stored in the gadget.

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Social Engineering

Cybercriminals use social engineering attacks to fool staff into causing a data breach. They impersonate a trustworthy entity to coax organizations into handing over sensitive data.

Too Many Permissions

If you fail to keep a tight reign of who should access your business data, there is always a chance that someone may try to misuse the information. Remember that it might be very tempting to sell data into the dark web due to the high financial gains. You might give the wrong people access authorization or allow outdated permissions for hackers to exploit. For instance, those who have left your organization but still have access to your systems can compromise your company’s security.

Effects of A Data Breach

Organizations need to focus on learning how to prevent a data breach since it can result in some very damaging consequences like;

Financial Loss

One of the most immediate consequences of a data breach is financial loss. Based on the breach’s nature, businesses may have to compensate the affected customer or pay legal fees. You might also spend more money investigating the matter, investing in new security measures, or even paying penalties for non-compliance.

Reputation Damage

News travel very fast in today’s world, and those who might never have heard of your brand are likely to hear of a security breach in the shortest time possible. If the incident puts customer’s data at risk, they may lose trust in your company. People’s perception of your company will change, and it can impact your ability to attract new customers or employees. Worse still, the current customers might choose to go to a competitor who takes security issues more seriously.

Operational Disruptions

When a security breach happens, it heavily disrupts business activities. You might have to shut down operations entirely to investigate the issue until you find a solution. Depending on the severity of the case, investigations can take days or even months. It will thus affect your company’s productivity.

Loss of Sensitive information

If the data breach results in the loss of sensitive data, it might lead to more devastating consequences. For instance, if you lose a patient’s medical records, this can affect their conditions risking their life. Again, exposing highly confidential government information can pose a significant threat to the government and its citizens.

Legal Ramifications

As a company, the law requires you always to protect personal data. In case of a breach, whether intentional or not, you may face legal actions. In some cases, the authorities may even bar you from performing some operations. Class-action lawsuits may lead to hefty penalties, which may be too high for the company to bear.

Tips To Avoid Data Breaches

The best way to prevent data breaches is by training your workers on data security guidelines. Show them how to identify potential data security leakages and develop a policy to retrieve, send, handle and dispose of data. e You also need to show them the need to have unique passwords and caution them against recording or writing them in areas where others can access them.

Also, regularly update your operating systems and application software. Further, use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software tools to protect data from getting into the wrong hands.

Limit access to the most vital company details. If employees can access all files via their computers, it’s easy for hackers to access important information. For instance, mailroom employees shouldn’t access customers’ financial details. You can also separate user accounts to control the number of employees who can use a specific database. Further, limit administrative access to those tasked to perform particular duties.

In case you are unsure about how to prevent a data breach, you can hire an expert or a tech company offering similar services. This way, you don’t have to worry about any loopholes that you may have left unknowingly. Besides, if you don’t have enough technical staff, a managed IT services provider can remotely monitor your systems around the clock.

Conclusion

Your organization’s data is a precious resource. Protecting it doesn’t have to be extremely expensive or complicated, but you must do it right. You can use some or all of the above strategies to strengthen your company’s data security practices. With such dreadful consequences of cyber-attacks, businesses need to develop a strong defense and an incident response plan to minimize hacking risks.

Make use of tools like Teamstack. It’s a cloud identity management system that pairs with numerous apps, including zoom and G Suite, to prevent unauthorized access to company data. Teamstack has several tools that allow your team members to log into applications without compromising security.

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