Cybersecurity is one of the world’s top security threats. There have been about 4,000 confirmed data breaches in the last year alone. Many businesses have fallen victim to these attacks such as Verizon, eBay, Yahoo, and Nintendo to name a few. A data breach costs companies thousands, if not millions of dollars to recover from.

Cyberattacks occur within big enterprises and small companies alike. Understanding what a data breach is, how they occur, and the risks behind them, we can implement better security systems for our businesses to put a halt to cybercrime. So without further ado let’s dive into the nitty-gritty behind one of the world’s biggest technological threats.

What Exactly is a Data Breach?

Hacker data breaching small business
Hacker data breaching small business

A data breach acts as a cyber-attack. Cyber-attacks happen when highly confidential and sensitive information becomes compromised. It’s also important to note that cyber-attacks are often conducted without the company knowing until days later. This includes information such as Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card information, passwords, whatever personal information you have out there.

These breaches hurt businesses in that these are costly acts and ruin reputations. Cyberattacks on average cost a company $3.86 million, according to Ponemon Institute. So, on average it costs around $150 per stolen record. Data breaching is a serious threat and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Cybercrimes are projected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, which is more than the federal deficit.

How a Data Breach Happens

A data breach occurs when a cybercriminal sees profitable reasoning – 71% of data breaches – behind their attack. This means cybercriminals will infiltrate a data source and extract confidential information to later sell on the dark web. They can easily extract confidential information by accessing a computer or network to steal this sensitive information bypassing the network’s security remotely.

Who your attackers are, courtesy of Verizon
Who your attackers are, courtesy of Verizon

Common Methods

Data breaches occur for a variety of reasons but typically carried out in these common methods:

  • Exploiting a network’s vulnerability: out-of-date software often creates a hole allowing the attacker to sneak malware – malicious software – onto a computer and steal data. So, make sure your software is up to date in order to protect your users.
  • Insecure passwords: weak and insecure passwords are an attacker’s best friend. It’s the easiest gateway to have your data compromised. If your password is a whole word or phrase you might want to change it. That’s why most websites ask for you to create unique, complex passwords. Utilizing Google Chrome gives its users a nice reminder that notifies them if and when the password has been part of a data breach and to reset it.
  • Visiting compromised websites: without knowing, you could unintentionally download a virus or malware by simply visiting a compromised website. A drive-by download is something experts like to call this method. This tactic takes advantage of your browser, application, or operating system. Often attacking systems that are out of date or have a flaw in their security system.
  • Targeted cyber-attacks: attackers will often use methods of spamming and phishing – fraudulent emails appearing to be from a reputable company –emails to try to trick users into exploiting their sensitive information. The email stating how “to claim $1,000,000 today if you give us your banking information and social security number!” Don’t fall for it. Because emails are the most common way for a cybercriminal to get your information. Avoid links or attachments that are from unfamiliar sources.

Don’t Underestimate the Cybercriminals

Cybercriminals often target large enterprises. Although, this doesn’t mean you as a small business owner should not take precautions. According to a Verizon Business 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report 28% of data breaches in 2020 involved small businesses. With small business owners trying to make ends meet, the last thing they need is a data breach in their network. Based on finding with the Center for Internet Security (CIS) and Critical Security Controls (CSC) taking these measures in your business security methods can help prevent future attacks.

Protecting You and Your Business from a Data Breach

  • Continuous vulnerability management: This is a great way of finding and cracking problems. Find code-based vulnerabilities in web applications that are being exploited to ensure a more secure network for your users. Also, this is good for finding misconfiguration in your systems databases that allow hackers that “hole” I mentioned earlier.
  • Secure system configuration: Ensure and verify that your systems are configured with only the services and access needed. Doing this will help further achieve their function and will help reduce the chances of a data breach. Cut loose ties with applications and malicious softwares that are harming your digital presence.
  • Email and web browser protection: These are the main gateways in which users interact with the internet and the businesses on it. Making this a top priority for your IT team gives users a fighting chance of not having their data compromised.
  • Boundary protection: Not only your firewalls but be sure to also include elements such as network monitoring, proxies, and multifactor authentication. This will make your user’s data safe. More importantly, it gives you peace of mind as a business owner that you won’t become another victim.
  • Data protection: controlling access to the sensitive information of your users limits its leakage. Make sure to maintain an inventory of sensitive information, encrypting sensitive data, and limiting access to authorized cloud and email providers.
  • Account monitoring: This is key to keeping cybercriminals out. This keeps them from using stolen credentials, especially if you’re practicing methods such as multifactor authentication.
  • Implement Security Awareness and Training: Educating yourself and your users is key. This will keep everyone on the same page when it comes to cybersecurity transparency and avoiding data breaches.
Cybercriminal Tactics Courtesy of Verizon
Cybercriminal tactics courtesy of Verizon

Don’t Become Another Statistic

Data breaches almost feel impossible to avoid. The risks of a cyberattack on your company runs at an all-time high. Hopefully by following these steps given to us by accredited sources your business, whether it’s an enterprise or local, will flourish.

To find out more statistics about data breaches and cybersecurity protocols click here.

Does your business already instill efficient cybersecurity methods? Any that I haven’t mentioned above? Let us know in the comments below.

This article was originally published on GREY Journal.