When a data breach occurs, the victim company can experience many consequences ranging from financial—where it’s reported that data breaches have cost organizations over $4.35 million in 2022—to the potential loss of company integrity and client trust.
The best way to keep your organization and clients safe is to understand the most common causes of data breaches and to prepare a thorough data breach response plan.
The Most Common Causes of Data Breaches
A data breach is a serious security incident in which sensitive, protected, or confidential data is accessed, used, or disclosed without the knowledge or consent of the owner. Identifying the most prevalent causes of data breaches is a proven way to mitigate its risk.
1. Misuse of user privileges and human error
Human behavior can contribute to data breaches.
Employees with access to sensitive data can misuse their access privileges to learn about information without authorization. For example, a customer service representative might view or share a customer’s personal information without consent.
Human error can also cause data breaches, even if done without malicious intent. A mistyped letter in an email can send confidential information to the wrong recipient.
Proper and consistent training can minimize these instances and inform your employees on what to do should they ever occur. Additionally, multilayer protections, such as through identity and access management plans, can lower the chances of human error.
2. Insider threats
Data breaches within your company can be the most damaging, as an employee will likely know where to look better than any outside attacker. Insider threat detection can be difficult, as the insider can blend in with your other employees.
It’s best to vet all employees in positions that handle sensitive data and observe any patterns in the event of any personal issues to avoid this security issue.
For example, a disgruntled employee you passed over for a promotion might wish to get back at your company by leaking data. Or sudden financial troubles might tempt an employee to sell your data to a competitor. Either way, careful observation and strict access policies should help limit the threat.
3. Poor password practices
Passwords are the most basic security measure any company uses and therefore are the most commonly sought-after information by cyber attackers. In fact, 42% of data breaches disclose login credentials, which criminals can further use to access other sensitive data.
Unsecure practices like using simple and short passwords can be brute-forced by hackers in seconds. Fortunately, your company can construct better password policies—focusing on complexity, proper storage, and multi-factor authentication.
Alternatively, you can go passwordless by using methods such as biometric authentication to replace traditional password methods. Both ways can lessen the threat of poor password practices.
4. Lax application management
Cybersecurity measures and cyberattacks evolve in complexity and volume in a digital arms race that will likely never end. Part of these security measures is the need to update software and devices. Hackers look for gaps in your software that they can exploit, and your IT staff should close them via updates.
It’s easy to become complacent with your current security measures. However, it only takes one out-of-date firewall on one employee’s laptop to gain access to your systems. Frequent reminders to update or automated updates can help prevent data breaches caused by lazy or forgetful users.
5. Malware and ransomware
Cybercriminals treat data like currency and have developed devious ways to acquire information illegally. Malware is malicious code that can scrape information or damage your systems. Ransomware is similar but instead holds your data or system hostage, until you pay a requested amount to the hacker.
These attacks can come in disguised attachments in official-looking emails you need to download or links that only take a click. Careful judgment is the best way to prevent malware data breaches, and a solid firewall to catch any attacks that might slip through.
6. Phishing and social engineering
Social engineering is when malicious actors use psychological manipulation to get a person to take action beneficial to the perpetrator. Phishing is an attack that uses social engineering to appear legitimate and get the victim to download software, give sensitive information, or do other detrimental actions.
In 2020, credit reporting agency Experian revealed that one fraudulent individual claiming to represent a client acquired data from around 24 million people in a social engineering attack.
Most attacks attempt to appear legitimate to trick unsuspecting employees. They can even pose as someone from your IT department and, paired with a tone of urgency, pressure employees into revealing login credentials.
Social attacks like this are difficult to prevent and require consistent training to identify phishing attempts and to ingrain correct informational protocols with your employees.
Sealing the Breach
Data breaches have severe consequences for your company and its clients, leading to loss of trust, interruption in operation, financial losses, and legal concerns. Your organization needs to avoid these issues and focus on prevention by learning to identify their potential causes.
If you want some help with protecting your company and minimizing the instances of cyberattacks, consider Q5id’s suite of cybersecurity management solutions.
Contact us to learn more.
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