Data Breaches Explained

Data Breaches Explained

A data breach is the intentional or unintentional release of secure or private/confidential information to an untrusted environment.

These breaches can hurt businesses by the disclosure of company secrets, consumer information, or financial data. Similarly, breaches can personally affect individuals, through lack of security in relation to healthcare records, social security number, bank account, and address information.

Data Breaches are particularly complicated in the modern day because once information is exposed, it is extremely difficult to retrieve or contain. Data breaches, or worse, cyberattacks are costly to “clean up” and can damage a business’s reputation.

A study by the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost to a company to remedy and notify of a breach is $3.86 million total or an average of $148 per stolen record. They also noted, healthcare organizations based in the U.S will incur the greatest cost given the sensitive nature of information in the industry.

What are the Causes of A Data Breach?

There are many ways for a data breach to occur. Here are the main ones:

  • Accidental Breach -  When employees unintentionally expose sensitive data because their device containing data is lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised.  According to the 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report released by Verizon, sending a document to the wrong recipient was the most common type of accidental data breach. Other shortfalls include sharing links and attachments with hidden content, forwarding data outside of the company server to personal email accounts, viruses or malware obtained by visiting a compromised web page and weak passwords.
  • Cybersecurity Weaknesses - Out-of-date software and program glitches can enable gaps in your cybersecurity coverage, leaving the door open to malware and phishing attacks.
  • Phishing & Malware - These attack programs use spam and phishing email tactics to try to trick the user into revealing user credentials, downloading malware attachments, or directing users to vulnerable websites.
  • Hackers - These cyber criminals gain illegal access to an individual computer or organizational network, providing them with the opportunity to steal private, sensitive, or confidential personal and/or financial information. 

How Can Your Business Prevent A Breach?

Many companies are refining and strengthening security measures and reevaluating their system and network procedures to better protect their business and consumer data. There are a few factors that should be taken into consideration when updating your data privacy and security protocols. 

Top 6 Tips When Updating Privacy & Security Software and Processes: 

  1. Hire a Specialist -  Bringing in a cybersecurity specialist can enlighten your team on best practices for data storage, network access, and staff training. In addition to prevention methods, a good specialist will also be able to provide you with real-life examples of breaches and show how they were remedied or mitigated. 
  2. Understand Your Vendors - Every company does business with a wide assortment of third-party vendors. It is more important than ever to conduct thorough research into who you are partnering with and how they plan to protect any data you may provide. It is also a good idea, and, in the case of Protect Health Information, required, that you have a Business Associates Agreement in place with all vendors who have the potential to access your data.
  3. Conduct Security Alertness Training - Employees are the biggest perpetrators of accidental breaches. Training should address phishing emails, accidental data sharing out of the organization, and the importance of strong passwords. If you are serious about safeguarding your sensitive data, schedule regular, mandatory classes a minimum of once per year, however quarterly, or even monthly, is ideal.
  4. Update Software Regularly - Your system is vulnerable when programs are not fixed, patched or updated regularly. Cybersecurity experts recommend keeping all software and operating systems updated consistently.
  5. Develop A Cyber Breach Response Plan - Developing a comprehensive breach plan enables both the employees and the employer to understand the potential damages that could occur and what action needs to be taken immediately when a breach occurs. A good response plan can limit lost productivity and clientele as well as prevent negative publicity.
  6. Conduct Regular Security Audits - Completing regular audits to identify potential cracks in your system and ensure compliance with data security regulations is essential. An audit will provide a thorough vulnerability assessment of your security policies and recommend the best ways to tighten up your methods.

Steps to take immediately following A data Breach?

If your company is the victim of a data breach, mobilize your breach response team right away to prevent further damage. The following steps can help mitigate the damage:

  • Notify: Many states require that companies send data breach notifications to consumers when their personally identifiable information may have been compromised. It is usually a good idea to engage a third-party who specializes in breach response.
  • Secure your operations - Quickly secure your systems and fix vulnerabilities that may have led to the breach to avoid additional data compromise. Take affected equipment offline, but don’t turn them off until a forensic review is conducted. Secure physical areas potentially related to the breach by locking them and/or changing the access codes, if needed.
  • Investigate - Find out where the information may have been leaked or posted and determine the severity. Then work with forensic experts and investigate.
  • Consult with legal counsel - Seek out advice on federal and state laws that may be implicated by the breach.
  • Have a communications plan - Create a concise, yet comprehensive public relations plan that informs all affected parties and authorities of what your next steps are following the breach.

The FTC provides additional resources for data breach response.

Modernizing Your data Breach Response

There are software platforms that help streamline data breach response. Utilizing such data breach response software, with its ability to quickly and accurately create reports detailing whose data has been breached and which types of sensitive data have been compromised is invaluable. Using Artificial Intelligence and automation enables an efficient and thorough response. It can provide complete and accurate breach information for affected consumers as well as comply with deadlines assigned by regulations like GDPR and CCPA

For more information on automating your data breach response, visit here