What is a data breach and how to protect yourself

A data breach is an organization's worst nightmare. Whether due to employee negligence, an insider threat or an intrusion, a data breach can have financial as well as legal implications.

When an organization's sensitive records are exposed, confidential data such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, phone numbers, financial information, and health information are all at risk.


Data Leak vs Data Breach: What's the Difference?

The difference between a data leak and a data breach is often intent.

What is causing the data leak?

There are several reasons why we have data leakage. Here are some examples:

1. Insecure data storage

Databases like AWS S3 are not always secure. Data can be easily traceable if an organization fails to implement any authentication process.

2. Data on a public website

An organization can accidentally put confidential data on a public website without realizing it. Even if the information is not traceable through an organization's website, if Google crawls the company's website, hackers can easily find the data.

3. Successful cyber attack

A data breach can occur as a result of a malicious phishing attack, network penetration testing, or the theft of an employee's credentials.

4. Poor license management

If you don't properly protect your data, you're leaving it vulnerable to any hacker looking for it. Security best practices include strong authentication and password protection as well as properly configured databases.

5. Insider attack or leak by former employee

Employees have access to a lot of sensitive information, which is why attackers often target them. However, hackers may decide to leave the organization they are attacking alone if they receive a good financial reward or if it is an ex-employee seeking revenge for past bad behavior. An employee can even leave with hard drives if proper security measures are not in place.

6. Vulnerable Software

Attackers are always looking for outdated or vulnerable software in hopes of an easy hack. They can use malware, an SQL vulnerability, or other attacks to exploit an organization.

7. Forgotten devices

A device that is not set up properly or never upgraded because they apparently forgot it exists can easily lead to data leakage. A forgotten laptop or phone can result in a competitor's employee gaining access to trade secrets, personal information, credit card information and intellectual property where they could later expose that information to the darknet.

8. Negligence of employees

An employee may accidentally share personal information with a third party, store data in an unsecured location, or be subject to a phishing or social engineering attack, resulting in a data leak.

9. Forgotten data

As an organization grows and changes technologically day by day, both in programs and live staff, they may have forgotten where they store their data. This situation can lead to a data leak if this directory becomes public or if a former employee is the only one who knows how to access it.

How serious are data leaks?

The risk of data leakage is not just data loss. Data breaches can damage many parts of the organization, damaging your company's assets:

  • Reputation : At best, data leaks can be merely annoying. At worst, they can lead to a significant trust issue that can affect a company's reputation or shareholder value.
  • Financially: Depending on the severity of the breach, you will likely incur costs associated with data recovery, incident investigation, remediation and any legal fees.
  • Business Consequence: Data breaches can be serious enough to hinder a business's ability to serve its customers.
  • Legal responsibility: A data breach can trigger a lawsuit from a company's customers and could lead to an investigation into regulatory or compliance issues.
  • Compliance: Due to privacy and data protection laws such as GDPR and CCPA, data leaks can lead to an investigation to determine whether there was negligence on the part of the organization, which can lead to fines.
  • Customers: If a data breach exposes customer data, it can lose them customers, thus affecting the company's revenue.

What do hackers do with leaked data?

In a worst-case scenario, a data breach occurs as a result of a hacker, which can further compromise an organization. Here are just a few of the ways.

They are holding the data for ransom

This situation differs from ransomware, which locks organizations out of data through malware. In this case, the criminals can threaten to release or disclose the leaked data if the victims do not pay a ransom.

They are blackmailing the company

Suppose a hacker leaks data due to an unknown vulnerability. In this case, it can threaten to share the data on darknet pages — putting your organization at risk of more attacks.

They use the data to carry out other attacks.

If hackers leak your personal data, they and other hackers can use that information to carry out attacks such as phishing, spam, password theft, and similar scams.

They sell them to your competitors.

They may try to sell your data to competitors who will benefit from having any sensitive product, financial or strategic information.

They do further damage to your body.

If a hacker obtains passwords and other credentials associated with your organization, they can gain access to important accounts and cause further damage to your organization.

Tips to prevent and avoid data leakage

To reduce data breach risks in your organization, leverage tools and processes to ensure your employees are aware of security best practices and don't add unnecessary risks to their day-to-day business.

Train your employees on cyber security.

Cyber ​​training is a great way to ensure that employees are aware of what types of external threats can lead to a data breach. Training can also help educate employees about good data privacy and proper data storage practices, procedures and practices to minimize accidental leaks of your company's data. This includes using MFA and tools like password managers to create strong passwords.

Use multi-factor authentication

One of the most common ways a hacker can leak data is through compromised accounts. If organizations do not have strong authentication measures in place, they are exposed. MFA greatly improves the strength of account security, and organizations should use it as much as possible.

Third Party Risks

SaaS partners like database infrastructure providers host key information. You need to make sure that these companies or apps have no known vulnerabilities and are configured with the latest tactics to keep your data safe.

Data control and classification

Not keeping track of your data is an easy way to lose it and cause an accidental data leak. Controlling and organizing your data based on how sensitive and business-critical it is can help you keep track of it while prioritizing the protection of your most sensitive data.

Put protection procedures on important applications

Set specific security policies and procedures that define who has access to what data, how data can be moved and placed in different locations, and the level of protection and security the data requires. This can also help prevent unauthorized access to your data.

Keep your software up to date

Hackers often compromise companies and gain access to all types of data through vulnerable software, applications or devices. These vulnerabilities are usually patched through security updates, so it's important to ensure you update your software as soon as possible to minimize any threat.

Manage your employees' access and privileges.

Not every employee should have access to your most sensitive data. You should enforce a least-privilege policy and limit administrator rights, permissions, and access to critical data to only those employees who require it. You can even provide access only when needed and not have them accessible at all times.

Have an emergency backup plan

While you can try your best to reduce the risk of a data breach, it does happen and it's important to be prepared. You should consider various data leakage scenarios and develop processes and actions that lead to efficient and effective data recovery, as well as remediate any potential attack points.

Read the above carefully to prevent a data leak

A data breach can range from a mild attack to a devastating blow, so it's important to ensure you address any critical risks. Fortunately, many of the actions and procedures you can take to minimize the risk of a data breach will also help improve your overall cyber resilience and posture, minimizing the risk of additional security threats while helping to prevent data breaches.


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Written by Anastasis Vasileiadis

Translations are like women. When they are beautiful they are not faithful and when they are faithful they are not beautiful.

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