A data breach is a security incident in which external attackers or hostile insiders unlawfully obtain access to sensitive data, including medical records, financial information, or personally identifying information (PII). One of the most frequent and expensive kinds of cybersecurity disasters are data breaches. They happen with worrying frequency and have an impact on enterprises of all sizes, in all industries, and across all regions.
One in four data breaches occur over a two-year period, according to a 2019 Ponemon Institute Report. Currently, the average cost of a data breach is over $3.9 million ($150 per data record), but this figure can rise significantly when additional costs are taken into account, such as increased threat detection and response, customer notifications, reputational harm, and lost potential customers.
Data Breaches can Result in Lost Business, Stiff Fines and Costly Settlements
In highly regulated areas like healthcare and financial services, where the revelation of personal data may result in penalties and legal costs, data breaches are extremely expensive. (Ponemon claims that the average overall cost of a data breach is $5.86 million for financial services companies and $6.45 million for healthcare businesses.)
Recent notable data breaches include the following:
- Over 17 million Ecuadorian residents’ personal information was compromised in a data breach in 2019. The depth of information disclosed in this hack makes it noteworthy in addition to its size. This contained telephone numbers, official government identification numbers, family tree information, marriage dates, academic backgrounds, and employment records.
- When it was discovered that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting business, had taken personal information from millions of people’s Facebook pages without their authorization and used it to target political advertisements, a controversy broke out in 2018. Facebook was fined the maximum amount at the time ($663,000) for failing to adequately secure its users’ personal information.
- A data breach at Equifax in 2017 resulted in the exposure of 147 million people’s personal information and resulted in a $700 million settlement with the credit reporting firm reimbursing individual consumers up to $20,000 each.
Data Breaches Come in a Variety of Flavors
Bad actors have several different ways to acquire private information. A nonprofit organisation called the Identity Theft Resource Center keeps track of seven different categories of data breaches:
- Accidental Web/Internet Exposure occurs when private information or login credentials are inadvertently stored online or on a public repository like GitHub.
- Unauthorized Access occurs when malicious actors use flaws in authentication and authorisation control systems to access IT systems and private information.
- Data on the Move refers to situations in which criminals get access to private information that has been sent through HTTP or another insecure protocol.
- Employee Error, Negligence, Improper Disposal, or Loss, in which criminals take advantage of lax company security procedures or policies or obtain access to lost or incorrectly retired equipment.
- Hacking/Intrusion occurs when a third party uses phishing, malware, ransomware, skimming, or another exploit to gain private information.
- Insider Theft where a current or former employee or contractor gains access to confidential data for malicious purposes. Physical Theft where data is extracted from stolen laptops, smartphones or tablets.
Preventing and Mitigating Data Breaches
Security professionals advise firms to establish many levels of protection in a defense-in-depth security plan to prevent and reduce a variety of data breaches.
A multi-layer security approach consists of :
- Privileged system accounts are frequently the target of hostile insiders and external attackers. Privileged access security solutions are used to monitor and regulate access to these accounts.
- solutions for multi-factor authentication to improve identity management, stop impersonation, and lower risks from stolen or lost devices or weak passwords.
- Tools for automatically identifying and reducing malware, phishing, ransomware, and other harmful activities that might result in a data breach are known as endpoint threat detection and response tools.
- Least privilege management techniques help ensure that everyone has the access they require to do their duties by closely matching access privileges with jobs and responsibilities. This lessens attack surfaces and controls the propagation of specific malware subtypes that depend on privileged access.
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