A data breach can have wide-ranging consequences for businesses of all sizes. Data breaches not only affect your company’s reputation, but can also cause you substantial financial losses. With regulatory fines, remediation costs and lost business opportunities, data breaches can prove to be a costly affair to handle.
But how costly could a data breach be?
Let us look at data breach statistics. According to the 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average total cost of a data breach is $3.92 million, with the United States being the most expensive country – $8.19 million and healthcare being the most expensive industry at $6.45 million.
That is why businesses these days rely on content security to keep their proprietary content, customer information, financial data, research, corporate training materials, and other crucial information safe from compromise.
But as a business owner, it is important to know common reasons for data breaches, and steps you can take to prevent them.
Common reasons for a data breach
It is generally presumed that only outside hackers cause a data breach. But that is not always the case. A data breach can occur due to many reasons, including the following:
An unintentional insider – If an employee uses their colleague’s computer and reads files without proper authorization and permission, it is a kind of a data breach. In this case, the intention of the user is not malicious, and the employee does not share or pass on the information, but it is a breach nevertheless.
An intentional insider – If the information is accessed with the intent of sharing or using it for nefarious means, it is an intentional data breach. The person may have the authorization and permission to access the information, but they are planning to use it to harm the company or an individual, the intent is malicious, and could lead to a serious data breach.
Stolen or lost devices – If a device (laptop or hard drive) that is not encrypted or properly locked is stolen or lost, it could result in a data breach. If a hacker or malicious user gets hold of such devices, they can misuse the information.
Hackers or outside malicious actors – When people intentionally use various methods to steal sensitive information from a company or an individual, it is a data breach. Such people are known as hackers – outside malicious actors who intentionally cause a data breach.
Preventing data breaches
With data breaches on the rise, it is important to know how to prevent one. Here are some effective ways to prevent data breaches:
Focus on asset inventory – If you want to improve your organization’s security, you need to have a clear understanding of what software and hardware assets you use in your network and physical infrastructure. You can also use an asset inventory to prepare categories and ratings so that you are in the know about threats and vulnerabilities your assets might face. When you are aware of the threats and vulnerabilities, you can better prepare your infrastructure for possible attacks.
If you need to tackle data breaches, you need to focus on endpoint protection. You cannot avert a major data breach with just an antivirus. Relying on antivirus alone can leave your endpoints like desktop and laptop vulnerable. Vulnerable desktops and laptops can cause major data breaches if not secured properly.
You can use encryption to prevent data loss and leakage. Encryption also helps you enforce unified data protection policies across all your endpoints, servers and networks.
Do a vulnerability assessment or, better still, use a vulnerability and compliance management tool – If you want to identify the gaps and weaknesses in your physical and virtual landscape, you need to use a vulnerability and compliance management tool – or at least complete a vulnerability assessment. Vulnerability and compliance management can monitor your infrastructure and keep your IT security in top condition
When you use a vulnerability and compliance management tool, it allows you to understand the security threats and things that need remediation. It also allows you to prepare an action plan to tackle security vulnerabilities and take appropriate actions.
Complete regular audits on security posture – If you want to identify the potential gaps in compliance or governance, you need to ensure that you complete regular audits. Regular audits help you validate your security posture. A security audit is a thorough assessment of your security policies, vis-à-vis your preparedness to head off threats. A security audit will let you know how you handle information security in your organization.
A security audit can bring out the following:
- Your organization’s documented security policies and their effectiveness.
- Your organization’s management process, escalation profiles, and the procedures you follow in case of incidents and breaches.
- The network security mechanisms you have in place in your organization – IDS/IPS, ERP, next-gen firewalls, etc.
- Your organization’s security and log monitoring setup.
- Your organization’s encryption and password policies.
- Your organization’s disaster recovery plan and business continuity roadmap.
A security audit will also bring out whether you test your applications for security flaws or not – as well as whether you have a change management process in place for the IT environment. You also learn how you back up your files and media, and who can access them. It also sheds up light on your restore procedure testing.
You also get to know whether you review your audit logs or not, and if you get them audited, when they are reviewed.
Keep your staff educated and trained on data privacy and security issues – Once you are through with the security policy audits, you can implement an employee policy that deals with data privacy and security issues. But it is important to provide regular training to your employees so that everyone in your organization is aware of their responsibilities. Make sure that you train your employees on the following points:
- The principle of least privilege – end-user access and privileges.
- The importance of creating and using unique passwords for computers and other devices in the workplace.
- Recognizing and avoiding a phishing attack.
- The documented system for those who leave your organization, be it your employees, vendors or contractors.
- Immediate reporting of any data compromises and breaches.
You also need to ensure that you have a policy in place on how your employees should retrieve, handle, dispose of and send data. Designating a person to conduct regular training on information security issues is a good way to ensure that ongoing education and training is consistent.
With such precautions in place, it is possible to avert major (and minor) data breaches in your organization. But as mentioned earlier, if you want to keep your company information safe and secure, you need to apply a content security solution.
DocuServe is a cloud-based digital data protection company providing services that include cloud-based document management, content encryption and distribution, and digital media replication and encryption to businesses in every industry. Contact us today to learn about our full range of solutions.