Data Breach: What You Need to Be Aware of, Often, data breaches result from employee error. That’s why it’s essential to have records retention programs requiring employees to purge files from their computers and destroy hard copies of sensitive information regularly.
Be sure to monitor network slowdowns and any other anomalies. It’s better to know these warning signs early on and alert your managed IT services provider.
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What is a Data Breach?
So, what is a data breach? A data breach is a cybersecurity mishap that involves sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. This information may include personal identifying information (PII) such as names, email addresses, Social Security numbers, and financial account details or proprietary business data that could be used to compromise a company’s operations.
A hacker can access sensitive information through various methods, including malware that infects systems and enables them to be controlled by hackers. Attackers can also use botnets to gain unauthorized entry by exploiting computer system vulnerabilities or breaking into company offices to steal physical hard drives, thumb drives, or paper files containing confidential information.
Cybercriminals typically use the information they acquire through a data breach to commit crimes such as identity theft, financial fraud, and medical fraud. They also sell this data on the dark web to people who want to commit these crimes or make illegal purchases using stolen credit card numbers.
While the causes of a data breach can vary, 90% of breaches involve a human element, according to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach 2022 report. These incidents often involve an employee or contractor failing to follow proper cyber hygiene in the workplace, such as by storing sensitive information in unsecured locations or accidentally giving network users excessive data access privileges.
What is the Impact of a Data Breach?
A data breach can have a devastating impact on companies and their employees. Companies can face heavy financial losses that may include a reduction in revenue, fines from government agencies, and costs associated with restoring affected systems and resolving related incidents.
A company can also lose its reputation, leading to a loss of business opportunities. For example, consumers might lose trust in a company that needs to take appropriate measures to protect personal information.
Attackers often target companies for their intellectual property, such as research, product designs, and source code. They can also steal sensitive information for financial gain or punish the company. They can do this by using lateral movement and privilege escalation, or they can physically break into the office and steal paper documents and physical hard drives.
Individuals can suffer significant consequences from a data breach, including identity theft and emotional distress. If attackers obtain their names, Social Security numbers, and other personal information, they can access accounts, ruin credit ratings, and even commit tax fraud.
Companies can minimize the impact of a data breach by implementing security measures, such as limiting the use of third-party services, securing endpoints, and addressing “shadow IT” risks. They should also ensure a plan for notifying affected individuals and law enforcement in case of a breach.
What are the Precautions to Take After a Data Breach?
Many countries have laws dictating when and how companies must notify people of a breach. These laws may also have requirements regarding the kind of data that are affected. The sooner the people know what happened, the faster they can take steps to protect themselves.
For example, if their credit card numbers are stolen, they can call their banks to report suspicious activity and lock their accounts. They can also take advantage of the hacked company’s offer of free credit monitoring services to help them spot problems.
The same holds for other personal information, such as names and Social Security numbers. Criminals can use that information to make fraudulent purchases, open new accounts in the victim’s name, and even commit tax identity theft. The best way to avoid these threats is to be notified of the breach quickly and take precautions to limit the damage.
To do that, a business needs to mobilize its breach response team immediately and consult with law enforcement to ensure they don’t impede an ongoing investigation. This team should comprise forensics experts, information security, legal, human resources, communications, and management. In addition, a physical team should be prepared to secure any areas that might have been involved in the breach.
How to Protect Yourself After a Data Breach
After a data breach, consumers should take some steps to protect themselves. First, they should contact their financial institutions and check their accounts for suspicious activity. They should also pay attention to their credit ratings and watch for changes. The company that experienced the breach often offers affected customers a year of free credit monitoring.
If they still need to do so, individuals need to contact the company that experienced the breach and ask them what information was compromised and when. They should also be on the lookout for any unusual activities in their bank or credit card accounts and monitor their social media for any evidence of phishing scams.
Businesses should investigate how the data breach occurred and determine how guilty they are for it. They should also consider whether or not they need to notify affected consumers and government agencies.
For example, some states have laws that require businesses to notify people if their personal information is exposed. In addition, other state laws may need companies to update their systems or provide consumer restitution. They should also interview the people who discovered the breach and keep a log of everything that happens during the investigation and remediation process. They should also ensure that they do not destroy any forensic evidence.