Security breaches continue to increase every year. In 2005 alone, roughly 157 data breaches were reported in the United States, with 66.9 million records exposed. That number more than quadrupled in 2014, with 783 reported data breaches and at least 85.61 million total records exposed.
Three years later, the number of reported breaches grew to 1,579. The information targeted by online criminals mostly includes names, social security, names, debit or credit card numbers, and bank accounts.
While measures have been taken by every organization to prevent this information from being exposed, hackers still find a better way to infiltrate businesses. Recent statistics indicate that a hacker attack happens every 39 seconds.
The frequency of data breaches can be attributed to cybercrime becoming an increasingly profitable business thanks to low-budget and automated tools used by hackers. A research conducted by IBM revealed that the global cost of a data breach in 2017 is pegged at $141 million.
Extensive digitization and networking give way to malicious attacks in a new dimension as it exposes business data, operational infrastructures, application, and, more importantly, the reputation of the organization.
Data breaches are often very challenging to avoid, but that is not to say they are hard to anticipate. Almost all online hacking incidents are as a result of one of the following circumstances:
- Stolen and weak credentials
- Application vulnerabilities
- Malicious Insiders
- Denial of Service
- SQL Injection Attack
- Man-in-the-middle and session hijacking attacks
- Web-based attacks
Even though breaches can occur because of an innocent mistake, extensive damage is possible, especially if the individual with unauthorized access sells corporate intellectual data or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to cause harm or for financial gain.
Online criminals typically follow an underlying protocol when targeting an organization. More often than not, a typical data breach operation begins with the cybercriminal looking for weaknesses in the company’s security. This may include examining business networks and systems or even contacting company workers.
Subsequently, the cybercriminal makes the initial contact through a social or network attack. A social attack primarily involves baiting or tricking employees into giving access to the system of the organization. Usually, hackers may fool employees into opening a malicious attachment or dupe by giving their login credentials.
A network attack, meanwhile, happens when a cybercriminal uses application, system, and infrastructure weaknesses to penetrate the company’s network. The moment a hacker gets into a single computer, they can adjacently attack the net and tunnel their way to confidential business information. The attack can only be considered as successful when the hacker extracts the data.
A data breach can have a devastating effect on the organization’s financial bottom line and reputation. Last year alone, approximately 10 percent of small businesses hit with a cyberattack were forced to shut down while 69% were forced offline for a limited time.
Common knowledge suggests that all businesses could face an attack at some point. However, the goal is to keep attempts from turning into a breach. Here are some simple yet useful tips on how to prevent a data breach.
1. Conduct Continuous Security Awareness Training for Employees
A survey by Sungard revealed that employees are the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. Regardless of their experience, employees open suspicious emails daily that have the potential to download viruses.
It is also worth noting that the latest annual survey by Ponemon Institute revealed that 35 percent of businesses experienced attacks that started from malicious insiders. The study further added that the costs for these kinds of attacks take twice as long to contain are financially expensive compared to external attacks.
Usually, the most common mistake that business owners make is thinking that one training class about cybersecurity is enough to prevent the worst. Like it or not, workers usually leave those classes, come back to their cubicles, and check suspicious files without even thinking twice.
Marketing studies revealed that almost everyone needs to hear the same message at least seven times before it starts to change their behavior. That is why instituting frequent end-user security awareness training is essential in changing the culture of the company to be more mindful of their data.
Continuous training further helps employees notice odd behavior by fraudsters and malicious insiders as well as prevent mistakes that could lead to a breach. Moreover, security training enables organizations to mitigate risks, influence behavior, and assure compliance.
2. Install an Intrusion Detection System
Intrusion detection and prevention should be applied for all mission-critical networks and systems that are accessible via the internet. These networks may include web servers, email systems, and servers that accommodate an active directory network and employee or customer information.
Technically speaking, an intrusion detection system tracks network traffic and will notify the network administrator of any unusual activity. It is relatively identical to a house alarm system, which will alert the owners if an intruder attempts to break into a door or a window. The moment the intrusion detection system sends an alert, the company can immediately determine the correct location of the malicious activity and perform proper safety measures.
What makes an intrusion detection system a great tool to avoid data breaches is it can also protect your computer and network from various threats. Other than hackers, the system can also protect against all forms of internet worms or malware.
This is because an intrusion detection system also has a signature database that enables it to pinpoint malicious activity. Users can update the signature and sensor databases as well to ensure ultimate protection against any malicious software that threatens network security.
Plus, the back-end is also built with a component that is responsible for sending alerts and recording any events. In most cases, the signals are transmitted in numerous ways, such as through console displays, emails, or database logs. Depending on the system, some of its components may also block the connection of external hackers temporarily.
3. Encourage Comprehensive Patch Management
An IT personnel knows about patching, but plenty still does not do it comprehensively enough. Usually, IT people will only turn on operating system updates without examining essential updates on third-party applications.
Failing to check these updates may put the company’s network at risk against various kinds of malware and hacking. However, businesses can prevent these risks by ensuring that all the patches are correctly installed on the appropriate systems.
The primary objective of comprehensive patch management is to ensure that the network features are not only up-to-date but can also combat the sophisticated techniques hackers used to penetrate business systems. An excellent patch management solution typically contains comprehensive scanning, efficient patch deployment, and in-depth reporting capabilities, which all provide IT, administrators, with a broader view of the progress of development.
Security is perhaps the most apparent advantage of patch management as software vendors usually release patches to fix vulnerabilities that are exploited by suspicious programs or individuals looking to damage the IT network or systems. Implementing these security patches at the proper time will significantly minimize breaches of all kinds.
Besides security, patch management can also increase productivity as some patches come with performance improvements that can be used to apply or fix crashes. Helping workers get rid of these issues will lead to a huge productivity boost, which in turn reduces downtime and increase your return on investments.
4. Craft and Enforce an Encryption Policy
The importance of having a good encryption policy cannot be understated. Though you may have the most talented IT department and modern computing resources at your disposal, failing to have written systematic steps that will serve as guidelines for data storage or computing may put your networks at risk.
The moment your mobile device or computer is connected to the internet, there is no guarantee of safety or protection of your files. Through an encryption policy, business owners are not only able to mitigate risks, but they can also ensure security when communicating data and documents over the internet.
An online encryption policy also covers the automated data management of the business and can be referred to as information security policy standards when working in a hybrid-computing, cloud, or even in an on-premise environment.
Other than that, an excellent encryption policy can also help companies avoid identity or data theft cases and guarantee the protection of the company’s digital resources. It can equip employees with immediate responses to incidents as well, thus, preventing further damage.
5. Manage Vulnerabilities
Perhaps the most fool-proof tip on how to avoid a data breach is to maintain an awareness of the weaknesses in the systems and manage vulnerabilities. Through this process, businesses can determine and quantify the security vulnerabilities within their environment and react accordingly.
Vulnerability management is designed to recognize threats, and the risks they pose may include the use of systematized tools that define the level of danger that exists on the network. The results noted in the vulnerability assessment report usually consist of the list of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed, cyberattack scenarios, and the steps that need to be taken to prevent it.
Vulnerability management also enables security teams to employ a continuous, detailed, and transparent approach to close any gaps and protect sensitive information or systems. Ordinarily, a vulnerability management process designates a risk to each threat.
These risks can have an urgency, impact, or priority designated to them, which makes it easier to concentrate on those that could create most issues for an organization. The data provided by a vulnerability assessment assists IT teams and automated third-party tools to prioritize vulnerabilities and develop a path of action, which usually means remediation.
How Does the Vulnerability Management Process Works?
There are various ways to instigate vulnerability management into your organization. It might be through threat intelligence, penetration testing, cloud security assessment, asset management, or even through website application security assessment.
Nonetheless, the most common is through continuous and automated vulnerability scanning software. These tools make use of vulnerability databases to recognize the flaws in your systems, hardware, containers, networks, apps, and data.
The vulnerability assessment tool will comprehensively examine every aspect of your technology for possible malware and viruses. The device will then report on all issues and suggest actions to remove threats.
Initially, the vulnerability management process works by determining the scope of your remediation and scanning process. By assessing the entirety of the process, business owners are not only able to enhance their security posture but can also recognize the level of risk they can accept as their process matures.
Scanning will also assist business owners to recognize what is on their networks and how those hosts are vulnerable. This enables them to immediately work with their asset owners to develop a centralized source for this ownership information.
A formal vulnerability management process performed by RSI Security will also produce multiple scans that cover unique aspects of your business and network. Having a single authoritative source in charge of vulnerability management ensures better monitoring and reporting of the stats of your security posture.
After setting the scope, security personnel will now help you establish a timeline for remediation of identified vulnerabilities based on the realistic goals of your asset owners. This will provide your team with the authority to work with asset owners to remediate issues successively while keeping your risks low.
Furthermore, a vulnerability management process also ensures that you meet cybersecurity compliance and regulatory needs for areas like PCI-DSS and HIPAA. This helps prevent hefty fines and legal troubles that could further cripple the reputation of your organization in the long run.
Vulnerability management, along with the four tips mentioned above, should be a foundational security process in every organization to reduce the attack surface area. These processes need to be performed continuously to keep up with the new systems added to the networks and the discovery of vulnerabilities. Get in touch with RSI Security and talk to an expert today to find the best solution for your cybersecurity needs.