A data breach can happen when you least expect it. The impact of security breaches on business can amount to millions (or potentially billions of dollars if your organization creates that much revenue) and leave its reputation in shambles amongst industry pundits and customers alike. This is why it’s best to understand what the potential consequences of data breach are and how your business can bounce back from one if caught between a hacker and a hard place.
How Prominent Are Data Breaches?
If you’re unfamiliar with data breaches and how they work, then count your blessings because many businesses learned about data breaches the hard way: by being hit by one themselves. To give you a better understanding of the scope of the situation, it was revealed that in January 2019 alone, data breaches led to the theft of almost 1.8 billion records. This number expanded to more than 4.1 billion records in the first half of 2019.
Even though these records may not have a specific monetary value to your company that you can put on your books, they do to hackers who sell them on the dark web. Case in point, it was found that 71 percent of breaches were financially motivated and 25 percent were motivated by espionage. With the average cost of enterprise data breaches skyrocketing to $1.41 million in 2018 from $1.23 million in 2017, we can see that not only are data breaches becoming more common place; they’re also becoming more expensive.
Even though data breaches leave companies having to pay incredibly high fees pertaining to compliance, network repairs, etc., the greatest economic damage stems from lost business. One report found that 29 percent of companies that experienced a data breach lost more than 20 percent of their revenue. This same study also found that 23 percent of companies lost potential business opportunities while 40 percent lost 20 percent of their customers and new business.
Also Read: How to Build an Information Security Plan for Your Small Business
What’s worse is that one study estimated that a company has nearly a 30 percent chance of getting hit with a data breach within two years of a previous incident. This means that once hackers understand how to breach your system once and come out profitable, they will oftentimes try the same or similar route towards a data breach again. This is why it’s important to understand your vulnerabilities and work to seal the gaps in your network defense.
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How Do Most Data Breaches Occur?
The average time to identify a breach was, on average, 206 days in 2019. This means that many times companies are experiencing a breach for months until they finally become privy to what is going on. In the meantime, the hacker has made off with a plethora of user data that they, in turn, sell for a sizable profit to the highest bidder on the dark web.
As more data breaches occur, more businesses are becoming aware of common trends that are symptomatic to the higher occurrence of data breaches. Let’s take a look at the top three data breach dangers and what impact they can have on businesses large and small.
Unsecured Network Connections
Your company’s network is the powerhouse that allows your employees to work efficiently and effectively. With more businesses going mobile in an effort to optimize their efficiencies and become more productive, this means that more work is being done over a Wi-Fi signal rather than an ethernet cable connected to a desktop or laptop computer. This means that if anyone is able to connect to your Wi-Fi network, they can find detailed information about anyone in the organization and potentially steal whatever data is being sent and received.
The good news is that if you have a competent information security (InfoSec) team at your disposal, stealing data like this via the company’s Wi-Fi signal is much more difficult to accomplish. Unfortunately, if your employees take their work mobile device outside the office and connect to a public Wi-Fi source, anyone can steal their information.
It is for this reason that if you or your employees absolutely must connect to a public Wi-Fi network that they should do so via a virtual private network (VPN). This adds a layer of protection between your devices and the internet, hiding your IP and location as well as encrypting your data. This can give you peace of mind that your devices and network are safe from the clutches of a hacker no matter where your connections originate from.
Thumb Drives and External Hard Drives
Thumb drives might seem harmless, but in reality, they are far from it. Most people don’t consider the security implications of loading hard data onto a thumb drive that can easily be misplaced or swiped off your desk at any time. Also, since many thumb drives do not encrypt the data that they store if someone were to steal it, they would be able to immediately plug it into their computer and use its contents immediately.
On the flip side, if you make it a point to use thumb drives often, you also run the risk of inserting one that has been pre-loaded with malicious code that can infect your device with malware just by plugging it in. It doesn’t necessarily have to come from bad actors within the company or from a visitor who “accidentally” left it at your house. Not long ago, IBM warned customers it mistakenly shipped some USB flash drives that contained a malicious file.
Two other threats to your network’s data infrastructure are thumb drives or external hard drives that have been pre-loaded with keylogging software that records keystrokes in the background. If your business uses a keylogger to protect highly sensitive information, a malicious thumb drive could use it to steal an individual’s or company’s data.
Ransomware and Phishing Emails
The cost of ransomware attacks has more than doubled in 2019 and is likely to continue its meteoric rise in prevalence in the foreseeable future. These attacks are on the rise with every type of organization from the large conglomerates to the super small business. The trouble with ransomware attacks is that no matter how much you do to combat them, there is always a good chance that one may happen.
Ransomware attacks typically start at the employee level as phishing scams and other malicious communications that invite more devastating attacks. These phishing scams are typically sent as emails that prompt users to click on a malicious link loaded with spyware or malware that allows the bad actor to siphon off data from the company’s network whenever they please. Combatting this traffic and equipping employees with tools, education, and training is what will help your organization defend against these threats in the future.
Small Business Data Breaches
Even though the major corporations are the only ones to make headlines when they have a data breach, 58 percent of data breaches end up hitting small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs). This means that being properly prepared for such an attack and having a comprehensive understanding of the top data security threats are a necessity in today’s global marketplace. If your small businesses don’t want to pay hefty fines and experience dramatic client losses down the road, then it needs to protect against the following data security threats:
Employees Lack The Proper Cybersecurity Training
In a small business, everyone wears many hats in order to make do with the smaller budget that you have to play with. In order to protect your SMB from the threat of data breaches, it’s imperative that you give your employees the appropriate level of cybersecurity training that will help them spot vulnerabilities at a moment’s notice. Having your employees take basic cybersecurity training lessons then your company’s first point of contact is in danger of being breached.
The breadth of your employees cybersecurity training should be focused on how to spot a phishing scam via phone, email, and social media as well as how to how to use encryption when sending sensitive data via email. Employees should also understand the importance of creating a secure password and changing their password at least every 30 days. Another area of focus for this training is to be privy to the necessary reporting protocols so that if an employee suspects that their credentials have been stolen they know who and where to turn to for remediation.
Employee Data Theft
Just as your employees are the backbone of your data security initiatives, they could also be the crux of your SMB if they decide to go rogue and steal your data for personal gain. One report found that as many as 57 percent of database breaches include insider threats with 61 percent of those employees are not in leadership positions when they compromise customer data. This is why arming your small business with the appropriate resources to guard against the risks posed by insider threats is imperative to your long term feasibility.
Lowering Your SMB’s Risk Of A Data Breach
Now that you know a little more about the prominence of data breaches and how they can plague an SMB from many different vectors, you may be a little frightened for your future. But, don’t worry too much because there are plenty of ways that you can lower your risk of being a data breach statistics. Here are two of the many ways that you can alleviate your SMB of the risks of data breaches without breaking the bank in the process.
Separate Business and Personal Accounts
Many small business owners are keen on keeping all of their financials in a single platform where they can monitor everything at a glance. Although this is convenient, it is also incredibly risky if you consider the possibility of a hacker gaining access to that single account. In less time than you can even think the words data breach, both your business and personal accounts could be drained.
What’s worse about this scenario is that once a hacker gets ahold of one account, they typically don’t stop there (even if the one account is linked to financials that can make them insanely rich). Instead, they often go after your personal and business data and attempt to hold you hostage via a ransomware attack until you send more money. So, when you do end up separating your personal and business accounts, try as much as possible to limit how often you log in to or use your personal accounts at the office.
Backup Your Data
Backing up your small business data is important, but unfortunately, many SMBs lack the necessary funds needed to purchase their own servers or store everything in the cloud. This is why many SMBs are stuck either using thumb drives and external hard drives (we told you how bad of an idea that was earlier) or just keeping everything on their desktop (also a bad idea).
The key to consider here is that if you want your small business to grow, you need to back up your data somehow to ensure its safety and to be able to access sensitive information without the fear that it will be stolen. Sadly, hackers will do all they can to poke at the weak spots in your network in order to compromise your data. That’s why putting up more barriers to entry into your data by backing it up will help you stay in good standing in the future.
Escaping The Dangers of Data Breaches
Most business owners do not realize the weight and severity of public scrutiny that come down on their shoulders following a cyberattack. Even if your company did everything in its power to prevent a data breach, your organization will eventually lose the confidence of its customers, shareholders, business partners, and the public at large. This can majorly affect your bottom line if you don’t take the necessary steps to stay proactive and address your vulnerabilities before they become an issue. To learn more about data Security or cybersecurity solutions , contact RSI Security today to get started.
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