With the proliferation of digital data and the ongoing evolution of technology, data breaches continue to crash down on companies.
In today’s digital economy, data has an expanding importance as it has turned into both a valuable asset and a vulnerable resource. Together with this, the risk of sensitive data such as customer or business-critical information being breached increases at an alarming pace. In an era when data breaches make headlines every other day, information security has become a critical aspect for organizations in every industry. Sensitive data protection has become an obligation not only for legal and ethical reasons also but because of personal privacy and protecting business reputation too.
What is a data breach?
Security breaches include both intended and unintended incidents, which expose protected or confidential data to unauthorized persons. A data breach might involve the loss, leakage, or theft of personally identifiable information (PII) such as names, credit card numbers, email addresses, phone numbers of customers and employees, or leaking intellectual property and trade secrets.
With businesses becoming increasingly reliant on digital data, multiple storage locations, and workforce mobility, security breaches affecting millions of users have gained widespread attention. One of the biggest incidents in recent years affected a large credit bureau in the US in 2017: the Equifax content data breach impacted about 145 million American consumers. In 2018 Marriott-owned Starwood hotel brands were involved in a mega breach, exposing the personally identifiable information of about 383 million guests. Recent incidents affected companies such as Nintendo, Twitter, and Zoom.
Data breaches can hurt companies and consumers in multiple ways; they are a costly expense that can damage lives and reputations and take time to repair.
How do data breaches occur?
In general, these security incidents happen due to weaknesses in technology or user behavior. Let’s check some of the most common forms:
- Unintentional or accidental leak by insiders: Organisations tend to overlook the threat their employees pose, even though data leaks caused by human error are quite frequent. A common example is sending sensitive information to the wrong recipient.
- Data leak or theft by malicious insiders: In this scenario, someone inside the company uses their access privilege to exfiltrate or steal data, the goal usually being personal or financial gain. Departing or disgruntled employees, as well as those with high-level access, can cause these types of incidents.
- Lost or stolen devices: Unencrypted and unlocked laptops or portable storage devices containing sensitive information can also easily cause data loss
- Malicious outsiders: The popular methods used by hackers include malware, phishing, and brute force attacks.
How to prevent a data breach?
Many companies are tightening security measures and reassessing their procedures to better protect their sensitive content and minimize data loss. Laws and regulations, such as the EU’s GDPR or PCI DSS, also require organizations to take security safeguards and follow specific steps in the event of a data breach or other security incident.
Security measures include policies, strategies, and tools that companies have at their disposal for breach mitigation.
Well-defined security policies
As insiders can easily put sensitive data at risk, organizations need to prioritize the enforcement of security policies. Employees have to be trained on the company’s protocols and procedures for handling confidential information and need to be aware of the consequences of their actions. A data security policy should provide information on which data needs to be protected, where it resides, and how it needs to be protected. Limiting access to data based on roles and need to know is also key to preventing an unintended security breach. The security policy should also include how sensitive data should be transported and methods for its destruction when no longer needed.
Appropriate security software
Traditional security measures such as firewalls or antivirus systems can reduce the risk of external threats; however, companies should also adopt solutions that can help them to mitigate insider threats and protect sensitive data directly. Implementing a Content-Aware Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution is one of the best ways to protect sensitive content from loss, leakage, or theft. Being among the most advanced DLP solutions on the market, Endpoint Protector offers enterprise-grade security for companies in all industries and an efficient way to protect data. With Endpoint Protector’s Content-Aware Protection module, it is possible to safeguard data in its most vulnerable state, when in motion, by performing content inspection and contextual scanning. Employees can be monitored and blocked from transferring files that contain sensitive information (based on specific file types, predefined content, regular expressions, compliance profiles for regulations, etc.) on a multitude of exit points (such as web browsers, email services, instant messaging applications, cloud or file-sharing services). Encryption is another powerful tool in the data security arsenal, helping to secure data both from malicious outsiders and careless employees.
Comprehensive data breach response strategy
Developing a comprehensive breach preparedness plan enables companies to better deal with cybersecurity incidents by swiftly discovering the causes, taking remediation actions, and limiting potential damages. With a response plan in place, employees know exactly how they need to proceed, and the company can report it in time, complying with data breach notification requirements.
In the case of security threats, organizations should switch from a reactive approach to a proactive one, as it is always better to prevent a data breach than to recover from one. Minimizing the risk of data loss is also more economical, safer, and faster.