Technology has completely transformed the business landscape throughout the globe. While businesses strive to adopt the latest technology to manage core business operations, they continuously face cybersecurity threats, particularly data breaches. According to Statista, around 52 million data breaches were reported worldwide during the second quarter of 2022, costing businesses billions of dollars in loss and increased service downtime.
Businesses cannot avoid potential security threats but can take specific steps to protect sensitive data from a possible breach. For this purpose, you need to be well aware of common types of data breaches. Scroll down to learn about the seven most common types of data breaches and how businesses can protect themselves from data exposure and breach.
Understanding Data Exposure, Vulnerability, and Breach
Businesses, particularly online businesses, survive and grow solely on organizational and customer data. Inventory management, customers’ personal information, and sales data are some of the organization’s most sensitive information. Thus such information is classified as the most valued digital asset.
Data and system vulnerability refer to any weakness in the network security configuration, database, web servers, or front-end and back-end information systems that result in easy access to sensitive data by hackers and cybercriminals. Sensitive customer data may include login credentials, account details, credit card information, social security number, biometric data, and demographic information, categorized as personally identifiable information (PII).
A data breach occurs when hackers successfully gain unsolicited access to PII or business information through malicious software or deliberate attacks from random locations. Ensuring data security and stopping hackers from deliberate data breach attempts are not limited to information security experts. It is also the responsibility of all employees directly or indirectly involved in handling sensitive customer information, including accountants, sales staff, marketing department, inventory control staff, managers, and decision-makers.
Data exposure and breach are two different aspects. While data exposure results when there is a system weakness or the organization lacks proper security protocols to protect sensitive information. A data breach is a deliberate attempt by hackers to exploit data exposure and gain access to sensitive organizational and customer information.
Types of Data Breaches
A data breach can potentially destroy a business’s reputation and hamper its growth and revenue expectations. Here are 7 of the most common types of data breaches:
Malware is any lightweight software or tool that hackers use to gain access to data or internal networks or deprive users of certain services. Malware or viruses tend to replicate on computers and attached devices as soon as the user opens an infected file. Malware can potentially wipe out sensitive information or turn down a web server. Businesses relying heavily on data can face severe damage if malware successfully erases important organizational information. Businesses have faced around 2.8 billion malware attacks worldwide during the first half of 2022.
Adware is one of the most common potentially destructive malware. Adware is legitimate software installed on a computer primarily used by advertisers to show ad popups during internet browsing. However, hackers use adware to trick users into clicking malicious links and downloading malware into their systems.
Preventing malware from penetrating network systems and servers must be a top priority for businesses to secure sensitive information. Businesses can implement many system strategies to prevent malware infestation, including hardware or software firewalls, updated web security systems, antiviruses, and operating system upgradation and patch installation.
Ransomware is also a subcategory of malware. It is widely used by hackers and cybercriminals to block users from accessing personal files and folders from their computers. The hackers trick users into clicking malicious links that download ransomware. Before the user knows it, hackers gain access to the user’s hard disk and storage devices. They use encryption algorithms to hold important files and folders and demand ransom to restore access. The ransom is typically in the form of bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies.
The use of ransomware has been increasing rapidly. Nearly 70% of businesses have fallen victim to ransomware attacks in 2022. The only effective counter-strategy against ransomware is educating employees on how to safely browse the internet and not to click suspicious links or open attachments. An effective firewall can also prevent employees from opening potentially dangerous websites and social media links inside the organization’s vicinity.
3. Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks are one of the most common hacking attempts resulting in data breaches. Hackers take a username and run AI-powered algorithms to generate and try thousands of possible password combinations. This way, hackers can easily break a weak login-password set and gain access to a user’s personal information and, ultimately organization’s internal network and databases.
The easiest way to counter a brute force attack is to use a combination of numbers, alphabets, and special characters to create a strong password. Organizations also use 2-factor or multi-factor authentication algorithms to secure user accounts. In such an authentication scheme, a one-time password (OTP) or biometric authentication combines with standard login-password verification.
4. Key Loggers
Keyloggers are simple yet malicious software; if a user accidentally downloads or installs it, the hacker can gain access to potentially anything. Keyloggers record each keystroke in a separate log and send real-time keystroke data to the hacker over the internet. Once the hacker successfully interprets the critical logs, they can access any personal information or account credentials that the user has typed using their keyboard.
5. Intentional and Unintentional Data Leak by Employees
Intentional human errors or internal threats are among the most dangerous data breaches. Employees intentionally leak data when they expose it to outsiders or click malicious links in emails and social media platforms. Disgruntled employees pose an insider threat as they deliberately expose, steal, or manipulate sensitive information to harm the organization’s reputation.
To counter intentional and unintentional data exposure, organizations must frequently implement strict data security protocols and revisit their security policies. Managers and information security experts should carefully delegate user access rights. Consequently, employees can only access the information they need to perform their daily tasks.
6. Distributed Denial of Service Attacks
Distributed denial of service attacks is gaining pace throughout the world. Every day you come across news of websites going down or users being denied access to their legitimate accounts or significant websites and social media platforms. In a distributed denial of service attack, hackers use specialized devices to generate millions of connection requests to a website. A team of hackers plans and executes a distributed denial of service attack from numerous physical locations and thousands of fake IP addresses. Web servers fail to respond to such an overwhelming number of requests and crashes.
Businesses and organizations can proactively turn down denial of service (DoS) or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks by employing network and web application firewalls and intrusion detection systems. The systems monitor network activity, detect an intrusion attack, and instantly block connection requests before they are redirected to the web host or servers.
7. Phishing and Smishing
Phishing is a common type of data breach attempt in which a hacker poses as an authority figure from a reputable organization or bank. They trick users into providing personal information like bank account details, card numbers, social security numbers, and other data. The difference between phishing and smishing is that phishing is commonly done through emails and DMs, while smishing occurs through mobile SMS. Employee education is the only most effective counter mechanism for businesses to prevent phishing and smishing attacks.
Protecting Your Business from Increasing Data Breach Risks
A data breach is increasingly becoming a significant security threat for businesses. While breach attempts are inevitable, there are some easy and manageable ways to counter and mitigate these attempts. Here are some of the ways to protect your business from increasing data breach risks:
- Employee education and training
- Businesses must develop and implement profound data security policies to encrypt and secure data and prevent it from outside or inside data breach attempts.
- Use effective network and web application firewalls to block unauthorized access.
- Conduct network and application vulnerability scanning to determine points of data exposure and compromised security.
- Employ a multi-factor authentication system to secure software and database logins.
- Regularly create data backups in the cloud.
- Use security devices to monitor employee activity in the server room.
- Opt for managed security services and third-party cloud storage for maximum security and remote database backup.
A data breach is the most significant security risk to businesses in the modern digital economy. Businesses must be well aware of different forms of data breaches and how to protect themselves from these security hazards. The information breach types and their counter mechanisms can help businesses counter the increasing data breach attempts.