Anatomy of a Data Breach: How Cybercriminals Get In| By |Jen Martinson

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Most professionals don’t have to worry about thieves arriving and stealing everything that isn’t nailed down the floor. There are still security concerns, of course, but most of them now revolve around cybercrime and the potential disaster of a data breach. These fears are well founded, as cybercrime amounts to billions of dollars lost each year. In addition to the monetary concerns are the costs of bad press for your business and even legal issues in the event customer data is leaked.

Data breaches don’t come out of thin air. They are usually the result of a significant vulnerability in your cybersecurity strategy. They are usually preventable. If you understand how they happen in the first place and some of the potential defenses you can use, you can prepare your business and likely avoid a data breach entirely.

Here are some of the main ways in which a hacker can infiltrate your business in order to cause a data breach:

Human Error and Social Engineering

Business owners and decision makers don’t need to worry about the integrity of their systems as much as they should worry about the human factor in cybersecurity. People are much harder to perfect than machines, and as such, it is generally a good idea to have a clear set of guidelines on how employees should handle technology and cybersecurity measures. Scammers will often have an advantage over employees and human error can lead to a data breach in the following ways:

  • Poor passwords and inadequate verification measures allow for hackers to either easily guess login information or use the same login information for multiple accounts should it get out. This quickly and easily leads to a data breach through cloud services or email access.
  • Phishing scams are still used because they’re still effective. Businesses should take time to train employees on how to recognize common phishing scams. Note that a hacked co-worker’s account could be asking for sensitive information and the victim might not even realize it.
  • Employees will often not follow proper procedures in terms of access or data management. Measures and guidelines are there for a reason, and lax treatment of those guidelines often leads to a mistake in which a scammer or hacker can slip in and out with your business’ data.

Remote Vulnerabilities or Service Failure

A business will often take great lengths to protect the office and office equipment yet forget that employees and tools are not always at the office. Some things are out of the direct hands of your business, and that means taking extra precautions in the event that outside services fail. Technical and online services need to be picked out carefully. A hacker won’t try to take down Dropbox just to get to your business’ files, but you can be sure that they will be happy to take your data along with the rest of their spoils.

Remote and traveling employees will also need to watch out for data interception on public networks. Hackers will often have a setup using a “sniffer” program that allows them to catch everything being transmitted over the network. This can include account information and private business correspondence, which quickly leads to a data breach. To counter this, most businesses will equip remote employees with a trusted Virtual Private Network in order to encrypt information on whatever network they’re using.

Whatever the needs of your business are, make sure that you are using trusted services and that everyone relevant knows how to use them safely and securely. Don’t be afraid to invest, and don’t be afraid to spend time researching what the best options are.

Employee Corruption or Misuse of Technology

Fortunately, most companies don’t have to worry about the problem of malevolent employees as much as they do incompetent employees. That being said, an overabundance of access can easily lead to a data breach. You don’t want to go on a hunt inside company walls whenever there is a security problem. Corporate espionage is real, but it requires a balanced reaction so as to not create an environment of mistrust in the office. A data leak can happen with just a flash drive and a motive, so make sure that your business only employs trustworthy people.

Another situation that can result in a data breach is misuse of programs or technology. This can simply be taking home files that should be kept safely in the office, or it could be trying to hack software that shouldn’t be touched within the workplace. Employees rarely know everything they are doing when it comes to cybersecurity, so businesses need to take decisive action whenever sensitive data is put at risk by employee negligence or greed.

There Are Always Concerns for the Future

You need to stay aware that there are other vulnerabilities on the way that could affect your business down the line. As security efforts get more sophisticated and effective, cybercriminals will continually seek ways to gain the upper hand. They might start using newly developed tools to create a vulnerability or develop a new but effective scam to trick your employees. The most important thing to do is to have a close eye on the online environment in order to meet any unforeseen threats on a daily basis.

Do you have any additional ideas on how to improve your business’ cybersecurity efforts? Do you have any particular concerns that you think the world should know about in addition to the ones above? Please leave a comment below and share this with your boss and colleagues so that they can better prepare for a potential cyber attack.

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