Theft has always been a problem, but the information age has changed its face somewhat. Nowadays, the theft of digital information is just as common (and just as lucrative) as physical theft. So, what is a data breach? It is, simply put, an incident in which your confidential data is compromised in one way or another.
Sensitive information can be used to blackmail companies for huge amounts of money. It can also be used for identity theft, bank fraud, and all sorts of other crimes. In short, data theft doesn’t directly profit the attacker, but it gives them the means to profit later. Because data breaches are all too common these days, it is essential to ask yourself the question: What happens if my business experiences a breach?
Understanding The Problem
Unfortunately, data breaches are highly common. According to these numbers, there are over 1000 data breaches every year in the U.S. alone. This also adds up to hundreds of millions of records exposed. Due to the number of data breaches that go unreported by companies seeking to protect their reputations, we can assume that the real number is much higher.
This report from IBM also gives us some idea of the scale and scope of this problem. The average cost of a data breach in 2021 was $4.24 million. This is up from the previous year, as 2020’s figure was 3.86 million. In fact, they say this is the highest average cost that they’ve seen in the 17 years that they have been doing this particular annual report. We can undoubtedly say that data theft is a huge and ever-growing problem.
How Do Computer Breaches Occur?
Data breaches can happen in a great many ways. Unfortunately, hackers have devised all sorts of ways to hijack legitimate system functions. Further, there are all sorts of illicit software tools like ransomware kits. However, all of these tools and methods require one thing: An initial security hole to exploit.
Software vulnerabilities can often be found and exploited by criminals, but if that doesn’t work, there are other ways. Social engineering attacks are the most frequent method, and they are mostly just old-fashioned con artistry. Instead of trying to circumvent or break through the various digital defenses, they simply trick an authorized user into revealing their credentials. This remains the most common way for a data breach to begin. That is why basic cybersecurity training is so important for anyone that works with sensitive data or systems that contain such.
Finally, there are other times at which companies are vulnerable because they cannot afford the latest or best security tech. Whether it’s a lack of proper encryption software or an inability to hire cybersecurity trainers for the staff, poor funding or financial difficulties can often make a data breach more likely to occur.
Coming Up With A Plan
Now that you understand the problem, we come at last to the important part: What to do about these risks. As with any potential crisis, proper preparation can make a very big difference. While your precautions may not always prevent a breach from occurring, they can at least minimize the damage.
Start With The Right People
The best way to begin is by rounding up all the people who have intimate knowledge of your cybersecurity situation. This might include IT people, third-party professionals that you’ve employed recently, a CIO (if your company has one), or anyone else that has a deep knowledge of your particular tech situation. That way, you can make sure that you only get advice and ideas from those who are qualified to give them.
Basic Precautions and Troubleshooting
The next thing to do is figure out ways to reduce your attack surface. That means scouting out and closing any known security vulnerabilities. You might start by making sure that all your software and hardware are properly updated, as that is usually free and easy. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have some intelligent people scour some known hacking sites on the dark web, looking for references to known vulnerabilities. The main thing is to ask yourself: “How could we potentially be attacked?” before doing everything in your power to make those methods unworkable for an attacker.
The Importance Of Data Backup
Make sure that you don’t forget to work out a system for data backup. Data backup is nowhere near as difficult or time-consuming as it once was. In fact, most of the processes can be automated for maximum convenience. If someone locks your system up with some ransomware, a recent backup can restore most of your data without paying anything to criminals.
The PR Problem
Finally, we come to what may be the biggest problem of all: Reputational damage. Customers and business partners need to be able to have confidence in your organization, including your ability to protect their data. If you fail to do so, they might no longer wish to do business with you. There is no easy way to deal with this problem, but there are things that you can do.
First, you can document your efforts to improve security. That way, you can show the public that you did everything in your power to protect their data. Secondly, you might want to consider compartmentalizing your system so that the most potentially damaging info is kept on an offline computer. Even the best hacker cannot hack a computer that isn’t connected to the internet. At that point, you just have to prevent anyone from gaining physical access, which is a lot less complicated.
When attempting to prepare for a potential data breach, it is very important to enlist some qualified help. We touched on that topic earlier, and we return to it now because it is so vitally important. Some cyber attackers are very smart and knowledgeable people, and it takes people that are equally sharp to counter them. Here at PCH Technologies, we have plenty of those top-tier people and we are always willing to help. To find out more, you can call us at (856) 754-7500.