Data breaches are serious security issues that can cause both tangible and reputational losses. These incidents involve the theft of information from a network without its owner's authorization. In fact, data breaches often occur without the network owner even realizing what has happened until it is too late. This can be a real problem if the stolen data includes sensitive, confidential, or proprietary information.
How Data Breaches Happen
As many will read the article, “UCHealth warns patients, employees of cybercriminal's data breach: What we know” to find out about this category of cybercrimes, in general, can help to explain what happened. Data breaches are almost always attributed to the malicious actions of hackers using malware. However, businesses also need to be aware of the potential for these less common issues.
Insider leaks occur when employees, typically with high levels of authority and access privileges, steal company data.
Payment card fraud using physical skimming devices can create an entry point into the network for cybercriminals.
The theft of physical property such as laptops, office computers, and portable drives can leave data in the hands of unauthorized parties.
Unintended disclosures by employees sometimes occur through mistakes or negligence, leading to the exposure of sensitive data.
Surprisingly, it is only infrequently the case that there is no way to determine the method of the actual breach. According to realtimecampaign.com, almost all data breaches can be traced back to the malicious actions of either insider employees or outsider threats. Unfortunately, knowing how the breach occurred does not restore data privacy and confidentiality.
Phases of the Typical Data Breach
Data breaches don't generally occur out of nowhere. With the exception of the occasional highly opportunistic crimes, these attacks occur in distinct phases. First, the attacker researches targets and looks for weaknesses to exploit. Those weaknesses can include networks and systems or the employees, themselves. Businesses can identify and remediate network vulnerabilities with the help of third-party providers like SpyCloud, which can put a stop to potential data breaches before they occur.
Only after long hours of research will a cybercriminal initiate an actual attack. The initial contact could be made through the network, where the attacker targets infrastructure weaknesses to gain entrance, or through a social attack. The latter type of attack involves using social engineering to infiltrate a target network via its employees. To reduce vulnerability, employers may want to provide additional reading to employees regarding how to spot these social engineering attacks.
Finally, once the attacker has infiltrated the network, they are free to extract data at will. In some cases, the data is used for blackmail or cyber propaganda. In others, it may be used to execute even more damaging infrastructural attacks. Either way, the company being targeted suffers significant reputational and sometimes direct financial harm.
Best Practices for Avoiding Data Breaches
By far the best way to protect a network from data breaches is to partner with an expert in the industry. Companies also need to take steps to avoid insider threats and social engineering attacks, though. Be sure to inform employees about threats, implement appropriate physical security measures, and create contingency plans to minimize damage in the event that a data breach does occur.
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