Infamous data breaches have been grabbing international headlines for years.
Facebook, Equifax, Yahoo, eBay, Uber, and Target have all been targets of massive cybersecurity breaches, impacting billions of consumers worldwide.
Worse yet, banks and financial institutions are frequent targets for hackers, which puts savings and sensitive financial information at risk.
But where did all these data breaches come from? Who are the culprits? What is a data breach anyway?
These questions are vital to ask, so let’s start from the beginning.
Read on to learn more about data breaches, so you can prevent them before they start.
What is Data?
To understand what a data breach is, it helps to understand the history of data.
A breach occurs when a rule, regulation, or law is broken. A data breach occurs when hackers bypass a company’s cybersecurity infrastructure to expose massive amounts of data.
But what is data exactly, and why does it matter?
Data is simply units of information, but that information can be highly sensitive. Examples of sensitive data include social security numbers, credit card numbers, financial account numbers, billing information, passwords, addresses, phone numbers, and messages.
That’s why data breaches are such a shock to the system.
Worse yet, data breaches directly put consumers in harm’s way. Stolen social security information can lead to identity theft. Hacked passwords can compromise computer operating systems and sensitive files.
How Does a Data Breach Work?
Data breaches are the work of hackers or inside data leakers. An inside company leaker can pass on sensitive data to a hacking group, triggering a breach.
Hackers use specialized malware to get their hands on sensitive data.
Malware is extraordinarily sneaky and can dupe even the sharpest IT professionals at a company. Hackers frequently disguise malware as legitimate computer programs to trick employees into imputing sensitive data. This method is a popular way for hackers to steal passwords and employee login information.
There’s a rhyme and reason behind every malware attack. It isn’t random.
Hackers thoroughly research a company’s security strengths and weaknesses first. Once a hacker identifies a weakness or vulnerability, it’s game on.
Hackers can also use a method called ransomware. Ransomware attacks hold a company’s network and sensitive data hostage until they pay the ransom amount. These ransoms are typically paid in bitcoin or another untraceable digital currency.
What is a Data Breach Plan?
Now that you understand how data breaches work, your next challenge is to prevent them in the future. The only way to avoid these attacks is to implement a robust cybersecurity plan.
The first thing you need to do is to get all your employees and managers on the same page. All staff members should be following the same security protocol.
Start with passwords
Some of the most preventable data breaches can be traced back to terrible password practices. Some companies even use the word “password” to protect their applications. Don’t do this!
Passwords should be long and feature a combination of capital letters, lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
Never base passwords on the following personal information:
- Street addresses
- Phone numbers
- Favorite foods
- Pet names
- Job titles
- Geographical locations
- Company names
- Family member names
Never write down your passwords either. If you’re having difficulty remembering your passwords, use a secure password manager that saves passwords but requires additional 2-factor authentication to log in.
Craft a Secure Social Media Policy
Social media is often overlooked in cybersecurity practices, but it’s one of the leading ways hackers penetrate companies’ infrastructure.
Hackers frequently send viruses and malicious links through Twitter DMs and Facebook messaging apps. These hackers can easily disguise themselves as regular social media users. They also pose as company employees to gain the trust of unsuspecting staff.
Chances are, your employees use social media during office hours and in their free time. While you can’t prevent your staff from tweeting, you can impose a series of rules that keep company data safe.
Start by limiting your employees’ access to social media sites during office hours.
Next, write out a list of social media engagement rules. Prohibit employees from sharing company passwords, company news, proprietary data, customer information, and any other sensitive data.
Require politically outspoken employees to include the disclaimer, “views are my own and not that of my employer.” This will help prevent your company from getting the cross-hairs of sensitive speech and doxxing from other social media users.
Take advice from Spycloud and instruct employees to avoid using third-party apps with their social media accounts.
Prioritize Network Security
No one should be able to access your company’s internet network besides authorized employees. Set up a secure password-protected wireless connection if you haven’t already.
Hackers are sneaky, and passwords alone aren’t enough to protect your network. Step up your game by using stronger encryption protocols like WPA or WPA2 protected access. Hackers can easily get past older WEP protocols.
Go a step beyond WAP passwords and implement MAC authentication. This method prevents specific devices from even connecting to the network.
Every device, whether it’s a smartphone or laptop, comes with a unique serial number — like a fingerprint. You can set up your internet network to allow only approved serial numbers to log on. This method can further prevent data leaks from inside sources.
Another option is to set up a separate Wifi network for guests. You can set up another internet access point or run two different wifi networks through your router.
You should still protect your guest network with a password and use WAP or WAP2 encryption protocols.
Open networks are never recommended. As such, employees should never conduct business on open public internet networks in cafes or libraries. Avoid sending sensitive company information, emails, and account numbers over these networks.
Protect Your Data Before You Lose It!
So what is a data breach? It’s something you never want to experience.
There’s a steep price to pay for not protecting data. Don’t end up in hot water like Facebook!
Start prioritizing your cybersecurity now, and implement responsible internet use policies. Check back for more essential tips on handling real 21st-century problems.