The average cost of a data breach is USD3.86 million dollars globally. While the impacts on individuals vary widely, with larger businesses taking much bigger losses, the impact of any data breach on a business’s cash flow can be devastating. A data breach goes beyond having an impact on cashflow though – it can ruin a business’s reputation and make customers less likely to provide critical information. In summary a data breach not only affects a business’s cashflow but can also impact its immediate earning potential and future growth.
Understanding how data breaches happen
Before a business can protect itself from a data breach, they need to know how the data breaches happen in the first place. Criminals use a wide variety of methods to access sensitive business or personal data and steal money from victims. The most common methods are social engineering, hacking, phishing, distributed denial of service (DDos) attacks and ransomware. Some cyber criminals develop elaborate methods like password crackers to open a ‘backdoor’ into secure systems while others rely on mundane methods like a simple phone call impersonating someone to get your passwords or other sensitive information.
There are many methods being used by these cyber criminals which does make it challenging to protect yourself and your business.
A third of security breaches are accidental due to human error
A third of data breaches, however, were not a result of a malicious attack but due to simple human error. Employees simply copied the wrong person into an email, attached the wrong documents to an email or failed to remove sensitive information from documents before sharing them.
Businesses need to address data security comprehensively
For a lot of businesses, cybersecurity measures are extremely basic and often extend no further than a basic virus scanner and instructions to employees not to click on suspicious links in emails. There are many other things businesses can do to make their cyber security more robust.
Provide security training
The most preventable type of data security breaches are those based on simple human error. Businesses need to take the time to create security procedures and train employees in how to handle sensitive data. That means not only teaching them how to identify suspicious emails but also how to store and transmit information in-house, as well as to third parties without accidentally exposing it to the wrong recipients. Additionally, it means ensuring that all team members are aware of the different ways that people can attempt to access sensitive information so that they won’t be caught off guard by someone attempting to scam them over the phone or in person.
Purge sensitive data regularly
Part of the reason that data breaches are so incredibly expensive to businesses is because of the sheer amount of data criminals can often access with a single successful breach. The data recovered often gives them the information they need to access other systems to steal even more data. Worse, if a business such as an online retailer, which stores consumer data, is hacked, it can effectively expose thousands or millions of individuals.
To limit the scope of any such attack, and prevent this dangerous knock-on effect, businesses need to regularly purge their sensitive data. Anything that isn’t currently in use should be kept offline or deleted entirely.
Come up with action plans
Cyber criminals often rely on shock and panic to get them what they want. For example, DDoS attacks and ransomware are both used to prevent a business from operating properly until it pays the criminal a fee. Not knowing what to do and losing revenue every second that its systems are down means businesses nearly always pay.
Ransomware and DDoS attacks can both be rendered mostly inert with the proper preparation and investment. Cybersecurity professionals can come up with answers to these kinds of attacks so that the business operations can’t be interrupted as easily. The harder you make it for these cybercriminals the less likely they are to attack your systems.
Businesses often view cybersecurity as either futile or too complicated to be concerned with. Unfortunately, as a result of this inaction attacks are becoming more common every year and the cyber criminals are having higher success rates. Businesses need to put more effort into understanding how cybercrime works and put the same kind of effort into preventing that as they put into preventing more mundane crime.