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what is a data breach

What Is a Data Breach?

Since the launch of the public internet, data breaches have always been a major cause for concern. In fact, they’ve become even more common as the number of internet users has grown over time. While it’s impossible to avoid data breaches entirely, there are a few reliable strategies that anyone can use to mitigate them. Let’s take a moment to explore what a data breach is, how it can happen, and what you can do to reduce your risk of falling victim to one.

Related Blog: What is IoT Security? 

Data Breaches

A data breach occurs when sensitive, protected, or confidential information is stolen or accessed without prior authorization. This can occur either inside or outside an organization due to negligence, malicious intent, or a combination of the two. Data breaches affect large and small organizations alike, and their results can be devastating.

There are many actions that can cause data breaches. Understanding each of them will empower you to protect yourself and your organization in the future. Today, data breaches often stem from the following actions and attack vectors.


1. Cyberattacks

Before a data breach, organizations are often targeted by some form of cyberattack. Breaches caused by cyberattacks are increasingly common and can also be the most difficult to avoid. Hackers and other malicious actors can breach private networks through email phishing, ransomware, social engineering, denial of service (DoS), and outdated software or hardware.


2. Theft or Property Loss

The theft or loss of property can also lead to a data breach. For example, if a current or past employee loses a personal device while traveling, then it may fall into the hands of someone unethical. They may try to sell or break into the device for personal gain, which can quickly expose personal information and sensitive user credentials. Malicious actors may even use it to impersonate someone and gain unauthorized access to their personal or professional accounts.


3. Employee Data Theft

Sadly, any organization’s current or past employees may steal or leak private data for personal gain or malicious purposes. Their individual motivations may range from extortion and espionage to identity theft and even corporate sabotage. Regardless, many data breaches often stem from employees, whether they’re intentional or not.


4. Human Error

As businesses grow and their systems become more technically complex, the potential for human error increases drastically. These errors can be easy to commit, especially for new or uninformed individuals. They may carelessly distribute a sensitive document, CC an unauthorized person on a private email, or accidentally click on malicious website link. While potentially devastating, data breaches stemming from human error are generally avoidable with the proper training.


How to Reduce Data Breaches

There’s no foolproof method of avoiding all data breaches. However, the best way to mitigate them is to follow strict security protocols within your organization. That’s why managed service providers (MSPs) offer innovative cybersecurity applications that can secure any organization’s sensitive data.

Data breaches often occur due to user error, so it’s essential to follow cybersecurity best practices within your organization. Here are a few suggestions to help you mitigate data breaches both now and in the future.


1. Use Encryption

Highly sensitive data ought to be encrypted, or at least password-protected, to reduce the potential for damage should it happen to fall into the wrong hands.


2. Enable Multi-factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an effective way to guard against unauthorized data access. It’s an added layer of security that goes beyond simply maintaining strong passwords. Biometrics or multi-device verification can confirm any user’s identity before allowing access to a private account or corporate network.


3. Employee Security Training

Employee security training is one of the first lines of defense against data breaches. This practice can reduce preventable disclosures and help any company identify socially engineered attacks. Recommended topics include password policies, web browser protection, email protection, and regular software updates. The level of training should be determined by the class of data that your organization handles.


4. Have an Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan helps to identify, respond to, and recover from harmful data breaches. How one reacts to and recovers from unauthorized data access is just as important as their approach to preventing it. How an organization handles its responsibility to its clients and employees and how it mitigates future damage reflects its reliability, competence, and trustworthiness. 


Avoid Future Data Breaches

Major data breaches often make it to the news, and for good reason. Some large ransomware attacks can cost companies millions of dollars, especially if they involve healthcare or financial records. Luckily, many data breaches can be avoided by following basic cybersecurity best practices.

If you still have questions about data breaches or general cybersecurity, then we encourage you to give us a call or contact us online today. We’ll gladly assess your organization’s unique risk and give you the support needed to secure your data no matter what.

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