Data is often considered the most valuable asset of today’s world. What makes many of the world’s largest corporations so powerful is the vast amounts of data they have at their disposal. Big data drives business strategies, determines decision making, and sets companies apart from their competitors.
But all this data also attracts hackers trying to breach a company’s defenses, trying to get their hands on this digital gold. And it is not just aimed at private companies. Data breaches come in many different forms, from stealing credit card details to leaking classified government information for political reasons.
So what exactly are data breaches and how can companies protect themselves from them? And why exactly are these breaches so incredibly dangerous to businesses?
You’ll find out below.
What are Data Breaches?
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) define a data breach as any compromise of security leading to the unlawful access to and use of data, albeit destruction, public leaking, altering, or any other form of use.
So technically, a data breach can range from a person stealing some files from someone else’s laptop to a global data leak as happened with the Panama Papers or through WikiLeaks.
In most cases, data breaches are when large amounts of credentials (usually emails, usernames, passwords, and the like) are leaked onto the public domain. This is generally done by acquiring accounts through phishing attacks.
Internet users often entrust their details – data – with a certain company. For example, you can entrust a website with your name, email, address, and payment details the moment you purchase one of their products.
The company, in turn, has the responsibility (under strict government guidelines) to ensure your data isn’t shared anywhere in the public domain, nor with any other companies.
Unfortunately, data breaches often happen, in most cases through phishing attacks. Phishing can be done in several ways:
● Phishers can launch a fake website, identical to a company’s original website, which either automatically downloads malicious software onto the user’s device or steals any details the user fills in when on the website (thinking it’s the original website).
● Phishers can send email scams that look like they come from a legitimate company, often including a link to a fake website or which automatically downloads malicious software.
Phishers can either send out a large scale attack to many different individual users or direct it at one person who has login details for a website or large database. Once they’ve obtained these login details they can then access the details of many different users in the database.
Why are Data Breaches Dangerous to Businesses?
First of all, it can harm the image of your business. Customers have entrusted you with their data, so they expect you to keep it secure. Failing to do so may cause distrust and anger among customers. But bad customer reviews are likely to be the least of your worries.
As mentioned earlier, companies have a legal obligation to ensure your data is protected. If your company’s security systems are breached and your customers’ data has been leaked, you can face fines of up to millions of dollars. So you should do everything you can to prevent this from happening!
How do Companies Protect From Data Breaches?
There are many ways you can protect your business from data breaches. Below, we’ll list the most common ones.
The first point is to ensure your company’s security software is always up-to-date. From antivirus and anti-malware software to having firewalls in place.
Test Your Systems
Whether you do it yourself or hire a cybersecurity company to do it for you: It’s important to perform regular tests and audits to test the security systems you have in place.
Recognize Phishing Emails
You and your employees need to be able to recognize potential phishing emails. Easy steps to take are to always ensure the sender uses an email address you know, never open attachments or click links, and don’t disclose any sensitive information.
Use Strong Passwords
And use different ones for each website you log into. Despite so many warnings over the past years people still often use the same username and password combination across different sites. Using strong, unique passwords help prevent data breaches.
The more have access to your data, the more prone you are to data breaches. Try limiting access to data (especially sensitive data) to only the senior management and the employees who actually need it.
Catch Out Data Leaks at the Start
Finally, you can use advanced web scrapers that match internal company data and credentials with leaked databases they find on the internet. Data scrapers scour numerous APIs, forums, and search engines (like Google Images) to gather all available information on possible leaks. This way, you know about a data leak as soon as possible and you can try to nip it in the bud before more data is leaked.
By implementing easy data protection steps like these you can safeguard your business and your employees from potential data breaches.