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What Jeopardizes Your Private Data the Most?

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Read more about author Ashok Sharma.

Breached, leaked, or exposed private data is a cause of worry for any individual or organization.

It opens the door for further criminal activity such as identity theft and can damage the company’s finances and reputation.

To prevent the aftermath of compromised information, businesses have been investing more than ever in building their cybersecurity architecture to strengthen their data security.

But what is data security, exactly?

Data security refers to the best practices that guard the information against threat actors that want to steal and leak sensitive assets.

In cybersecurity, compromised information is a result of malicious activity such as data leaks following ransomware. To guard data from theft, it’s necessary to hacker-proof the entire network.

What are the leading causes of compromised information every company should know nowadays, and what can you do about them today?

Outdated Systems

According to a study, organizations with outdated internet browsers are twice as likely to suffer a data breach compared to those that regularly accept new updates. 

Unpatched software falls under the category of outdated systems that can endanger the company.

For example, one of the most well-known ransomware incidents, WannaCry, was possible because users hadn’t upgraded their software, i.e., accepted new patches that Microsoft released eight years before the incident.

Regularly fixing the weaknesses in the system and doing updates should be part of the normal cyber hygiene for any organization. 

Insider Threats

Private data can be compromised by a threat actor that already has access to credentials (insider threats) that allow them to enter the system.

For instance, cybercriminals can use the passwords and emails that have been made available following other data leaks. 

Once the credentials grant them access to the system, they can get deeper into the network, monitor activity, and download files that contain private information.

Another possibility is that the employee, unaware of the security protocols, enables access to intruders that want to steal information.

In most cases, the hacker will pretend that they’re a legitimate user to create space for deeper lateral movement within the company.

Lost Data During Cloud Migrations

More and more companies have been adopting cloud technology to either enable remote work or to scale the company in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

However, the process of shifting of data during cloud migrations has been endangering user information as well as corporate intelligence.

Namely, while the information is transferred to the cloud, the chance of data loss increases because companies have a difficult time controlling the possible losses. 

While any movement of private data from one place to another poses a risk of a leak, the cloud presents a specific vulnerability because files can be shared more easily with malicious actors.

Social Engineering Attacks

To find the vulnerability in the system, cybercriminals typically start with people. 

It’s estimated that phishing is the cause of 90% of successful data breaches

This type of social engineering leverages human mistakes to find or create a flaw that allows access into the otherwise guarded system.

Cybercriminals rely on techniques such as phishing to obtain credentials or to force the employee to take an action –such as clicking the malware-infected link.

Rise of Ransomware Attacks

While other types of attacks such as phishing have become even more prevalent, another type of malware (ransomware) has been on the rise and it’s targeting the data of the company.

The number of ransomware cases has been increasing each year. In 2022, it was reported that 70% of businesses have fallen victim to this attack.

This malware encrypts files, and it can lock employees out of the infrastructure – depending on the type of ransomware and hacking capabilities of the threat actor.

Following the encryption, the criminals seek ransom in exchange for the key that unlocks the files.

Which Measures Can Prevent Data Breaches?

Considering the common causes of compromised information, some of the measures that organizations can take to protect their networks from malicious activity include:

  • Upgrading systems regularly
  • Adopting zero trust
  • Restricting levels of access for teams
  • Getting data loss prevention (DLP)
  • Introducing employee training
  • Installing anti-malware solution

Accepting regular upgrades and patching up the flaws as they appear within the system prevent the hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities – old, and new ones.

In cybersecurity, zero trust refers to applying the “trust, but verify” philosophy to the architecture. For instance, this can refer to not immediately trusting anyone who has credentials and tries to access the network.

If a single user account in the company is compromised, that shouldn’t give criminals access to the entire network. Restrict access for your teams based on their roles and what they need to do for their work.

Data loss prevention (DLP) is a software solution that facilitates information security by doing regular backups of the data in separate storage, identifying sensitive data, enforcing policies that safeguard information, and more.

DLP is especially relevant during the migration of systems and data to the cloud.

Awareness training that covers basic cybersecurity hygiene can prevent many attacks that target the weakest link in any security – humans.

Finally, don’t forget to create a layered architecture that consists of versatile protective tools such as a firewall, antivirus software, and even specialized software such as anti-ransomware solutions.

To Conclude: Start with the Weakest Links

Many people still believe that data breaches, in most cases, result from sophisticated hacking. 

In reality, criminal activity that results in an information leak can start with a flaw in the outdated browser that hasn’t been upgraded in years or an employee clicking on an infected link.

Prevention is similar in that it also involves simple techniques and measures that companies can apply today to avoid major financial damage. 

For instance, they can start by introducing basic cybersecurity training for employees and accepting browser upgrades.

After that, they can move on to introducing more specialized solutions such as anti-malware that guard assets against common threats which compromise private data.

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