Nowadays more and more of our personal information is moving into the digital space. Whether that’s by doing your shopping, online banking or booking a holiday, we’re increasingly sharing our personal data with businesses online. This data is shared through digital technologies and is then stored by these companies. The problem is that the more information we share through the internet and digital technologies, the more we become susceptible to cyber-attacks and data breaches.
This is bad news for both individuals and businesses, in particular, companies who need to protect the personal data of their customers. Because of this, we’re going to address what a data breach is and how you can protect your business from becoming a victim.
What is a data breach?
Search Security defines a data breach as ‘a confirmed incident in which sensitive, confidential or otherwise protected data has been accessed and/or disclosed in an unauthorised fashion’. So, put simply, a data breach means the release or theft of personal data by someone who is not authorised to handle said data. A breach of this nature can be very damaging to the individuals whose information is being shared, but also to businesses who are entrusted with keeping this data confidential.
In fact, as technology continues to progress and more of our lives are being moved to the digital space, data breaches are becoming more of a threat. Individuals risk their sensitive information being accessed by unauthorised groups, personal details such as full names, emails, phone numbers, financial details and information regarding their health.
Data breaches like this can be extremely costly to businesses, they can also have a really damaging effect on a company’s reputation. It feels like we’re increasingly seeing high profile data breaches appearing in the news and this is why it’s so important that businesses are ahead of the game. In this next section were going to take a brief look at some of the most notable breaches of the last decade.
Notable data breaches in recent years
Some of the more high-profile cases of data breaches in recent years have been widely reported. For example, back in 2013 and 2014 Yahoo was victim to the biggest known breach to date, when the data of its three billion users was compromised. Similarly, Uber, LinkedIn, Facebook and eBay are just some of the other big-name brand that have had the personal data of hundreds of thousands of their users accessed or stolen by cybercriminals.
Why do these data breaches occur?
Data has become the most valuable resource in the world, even outpacing the oil industry. Cybercrime can be very profitable for the hackers and this is often why so many data breaches occur. The hackers are able to access and steal huge amounts of personal information which they can then sell on the black market. They can also damage or even ruin the reputation of the business they have hacked into.
These breaches are made possible by exploiting vulnerable systems, weak password and by using targeted malware attacks. The cybercriminals involved are very intelligent and know where to look for weak systems. Often these breaches happen without the company even noticing, which means there is often a delay in getting the problem fixed, by which time the hackers have been able to access the information they wanted.
How you can protect your business from a breach
There are a number of ways you can protect your data and reduce the risk of your business falling victim to cybercrime. It’s best to ensure you’ve got strong security systems in place right from the start, but if you feel your systems aren’t strong enough or if your business is recovering from a breach in the past, here are five ways to protect yourself from any future breaches.
1. Control who has access to the data
One of the best ways to ensure that your data is safe is to only give access to authorised employees. Sadly, staff are seen as the easiest way for hackers to get their hands on the information they want, so it’s best to reduce the number of people with passwords or authorisation to sensitive data. Only give authorisation to those who need access in order to be able to do their job and ensure that there are strong systems in place to protect this data such as password protection.
2. Train all staff on security best practise
It’s not just the IT and security teams that need to know how to keep data safe. It’s a good idea to teach all staff best practice when it comes to security. This will reduce the risk of human error allowing hackers to get into the system. Encourage all employees to lock their screens when away from their desk, to change their passwords regularly and not to open any emails or attachments from suspicious or unknown sources.
Employees should also ensure they keep all laptops or tech safe when working outside the office and avoid connecting to insecure networks. Finally, train all staff on safe internet navigation, downloads, sharing documents online and where to report a problem should they notice any suspicious activity taking place. There are firms who specialise in providing in-house data protection training.
3. Invest in the best software
You need to set aside part of your budget to invest in the best software if you hope to prevent data breaches. It also pays to invest in employees who are able to spot potential threats and put the best systems in place to ensure maximum security. They can also update these systems when better or more effective security solutions present themselves.
4. Destroy data or tech you no longer need
Once you have finished with data, whether physical or digital, you need to destroy it. You should also get rid of any hardware that once contained sensitive data, and ensure this is destroyed properly so that no ‘dumpster divers’ can access this in the future. Any online files should also be disposed of effectively to reduce the risk of unauthorised parties getting hold of this information.
5. Secure Your Emails
Ensuring that your company emails have TLS encryption will go a long way to protecting them from a cyber-attack. Basically, this will enable your staff’s emails to be encrypted which will prevent a third party from intercepting and reading potentially accessing private information. It also enables authentication checking to ensure that emails are being sent and received from legitimate company email addresses.
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