As of 2022, the average cost of data branches in the USA is 9.44 million dollars, as against 9.05 million dollars in 2021. Undoubtedly, data is crucial to every organization, and its breach can affect all your strategies and course of action in the long run. Generally, data breaches happen due to vulnerable technology and an uneducated workforce. As technology enables us to interconnect our devices, the possibility of data slip-throughs increases because hackers get more entry points to exploit.

Recent data breach incidents have been no less than a loud alarm that companies must invest time and effort in safeguarding their data. Thus this blog will help you know 9 ways to prevent data breaches. But let’s start by understanding what a data breach is. 

What is a Data Breach?

A data breach is a cyberattack where private and sensitive information is disclosed to an unauthorized entity. The important documents are shared, viewed, and copied without the owner’s permission. Usually, malicious actors take advantage of weak technology and careless user behaviour to enter a system to steal or intercept data. 

As per HIPAA Journal, 4,419 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records have been reported between 2009 and 2021. Those breaches have resulted in the loss, theft, exposure, or impermissible disclosure of 314,063,186 healthcare records. Healthcare data breaches are very common as the information is valuable to hackers. They sell it on the dark web or use it to purchase prescriptions, receive treatments, or make fake medical claims. 

What is Targeted in Data Breaching?

Common vulnerabilities targeted by threat actors are:

Weak Credentials

If hackers have your username and password, they can unlock many accounts and folders. So, never set passwords that are easily guessable and reused for multiple accounts. They can attempt brute force attacks, where they use trial and error techniques to crack passwords, login credentials, and encrypted emails

Compromised Assets

Hackers commit malware attacks where they negate authentication tools used to protect computers. They turn off antivirus and anti-malware programs to attack your system without your knowledge and consent.

Payment Card Fraud

Card skimmers installed on card readers collect card numbers that are misused by cyberactors to recover and use the information to make fraudulent purchases.  

Third-Party Access

Despite taking precautions to keep your network and data safe, bad actors use third-party vendors to enter your system for malicious purposes. 

Mobile Devices

Employees often use their personal mobile devices for professional purposes. These devices aren’t secured to download malware-injected links, letting hackers attempt data breaching.

What happens If Your Data Gets Breached?

The cost of data breaches isn’t limited to losing money only; it hampers your brand value and customer relationships as well. Here’s what can happen if your data gets breached.

Companies

Rival companies can use the breached information to forestall your sales and marketing strategies, cheat source codes, get insights on customer data, etc. 

Yahoo! the internet service company, tops the list of data breaches causing maximum damage. It suffered two major data breaches (in August 2013 and September 2016) that affected millions of accounts. Hackers stole and misused details like names, email addresses, phone numbers, encrypted and unencrypted security questions, date of birth, and hashed passwords. 

Government

Leaked government data can expose sensitive information to foreign parties and terrorist groups. This can impact military and financial operations and pose a threat to citizens.

Individuals

Data breaches can leak your personal information like social security numbers, banking details, medical history, login credentials, etc. Hackers can misuse the details to engage in different types of fraudulent activities in your name, including phishing and spoofing

Types of Data Breaches

Now that you know enough about what is a data breach and how it can impact you, it’s time to learn its types. 

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attack

Cross-site scripting, or XSS, is an attack where cybercriminals inject malicious scripts into a trusted website that is otherwise safe. When victims visit a corrupted website, they become susceptible to this attack.

It’s a common technique witnessed in healthcare data breaches. XSS is executed to steal cookies, hijack users’ sessions, exploit accounts, intercept and steal sensitive information, or access your device’s geolocation, microphone, webcam, Bluetooth, etc. 

SQL Injection Attack

SQL stands for Structured Query Language, an attack where bad actors inject malicious codes into existing SQL elements to manipulate systems into giving access. This is attempted to intercept data or locate admin credentials and take over a system completely. 

MITM Attack

MITM, or man-in-the-middle attack, is an eavesdropping attack where threat actors disturb communication and data transfer between the sender and receiver’s servers.

9 Ways to Prevent Data Breaches

The average cost of data breaches for small businesses is also as high as $2.98 million. Imagine what it could be for a large business!

Thus, every business owner, irrespective of size, should practice the following preventive measures to steer clear of data breaches.

1. Data Backup and Recovery

In recent data breaches, hackers steal and encrypt data to attempt a ransomware attack where they demand hefty ransom in exchange for a decryption key. That’s why you must backup data using the 3-2-1 rule, according to which you must have 3 copies of your data; 2 on different storage media (for example, pen drive and hard drive) and 1 off-site copy for disaster recovery. 

2. Limit Access to Your Most Valuable and Sensitive Data

Give access to confidential files to people who require them to complete tasks. This will make your valuable and sensitive data less prone to hackers’ exploitation. Limiting the number of employees accessing specific data will eventually narrow the chances of someone accidentally clicking on malicious links.

3. Third-Party Vendor Compliance

Limit what data your third-party vendors can access; you never know who intends to sell the information to your rivals or cyber criminals. 

4. Keep Your Software Updated

Keep your software updated as they have patches for new vulnerabilities which can be exploited otherwise. You can use special programs that keep a check on updates of all the software. These are effective yet reasonably priced. 

5. Create and Update Policies

Create data breach policies and update them consistently. Make sure you levy strict penalties on anyone not abiding by them. This will show your employees that you’re very illiberal about data leakage, and hence they should also take it seriously.

6. Educate Your Workforce

Spread awareness among employees of all seniority levels on what is a data breach and how to prevent it in the first place. You can conduct regular mock drills to check how they respond to such situations. Help them learn about browser hygiene and how to set strong passwords.  

7. Destroy Before Disposal

Ensure you properly dispose of confidential details using software designed to permanently wipe data off devices. You can’t be fully protected against data breaching by just deleting the files or reformatting the devices. 

8. Data Encryption

Always encrypt confidential data if you’re sharing it over email. Also, avoid using public Wi-Fi for sharing and accessing sensitive data.

9. Safeguard Portable Devices

Losing or stealing flash drives, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other portable devices is easy. So, set strong and unguessable passwords and install anti-theft applications.

Latest posts by Ahona Rudra (see all)