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Types Of Data Breaches And How They Affect Your Business

Arooj Anwar
By: Arooj Anwar Cyber Security | 14 November

According to the 2022 data breach report by IBM the average cost of a data breach has reached a record high of $4.35 million. Data breaches can have a severe and lasting impact on your company, cause significant financial losses and can also result in damage to your company’s reputation. To successfully fight against cyberattacks, it's important that you make cybersecurity awareness and prevention part of your culture as 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error. In this blogpost we talk about what a data breach is, what the different types of cyberattacks are that can constitute a data breach and how you can minimize the risk of this happening in your company. 

What is a data breach? 

A data can breach happen if you accidently share sensitive data with the wrong recipient or when information is stolen or taken from a system without the knowledge or authorization of the system’s owner. Both small and large organisations can suffer from data breaches which means it can happen to you and your organisation. Although much of the news coverage focuses on larger companies, 60 percent of targeted attacks impact small-to-medium-sized organizations. Data breaches that happen in small companies rarely make headline news, but they have severe consequences for those involved.

Types of data breaches  

Data breaches can vary in seriousness, and do not all threaten your privacy in the same way. For example, if an employee was to leave behind some files in a coffee shop, chances are that someone would either find a way to return the files or get rid of them. In either case the damage will most likely be minimal, but it will be considered a data breach nonetheless and must be treated as one. However, the same cannot be said for data breaches that are caused as a result of a sophisticated attack carried out by a cybercriminal, the damages in such cases are much greater leading to serious consequences.  

So what are the different types of data breaches you should be aware of? Read on, and we’ll discuss the most common types and how they can affect your business.

Phishing is often an attempt to steal company data by getting you to reveal personal information 

Phishing is a term that most of us are familiar with, and we know that there are a few different types of phishing including spear phishing, whaling, pharming, smishing and vishing. While there are differences in how each of these cyberattacks are carried out, they share one thing in common which is that they can all lead to a data breach. An attacker's reasons for a phishing attack vary but usually the aim is to steal personal information and they do this by using social engineering tactics and creating a sense of emergency. Once the cybercriminal gains access to your network, they are free to extract data to either sell it, publish it or hold it for a ransom. Regardless of what the cybercriminal chooses to do with the stolen information, a data breach has taken place.

How to reduce the risks of phishing attacks 

It only takes one employee to fall for a phishing attack for a data breach to happen, that’s why it's one of the most important threats to mitigate and the most difficult since it requires human defences. To reduce the risks of phishing in your company it's important that you create a culture of awareness by making data security a part of everyday conversation.  

  • Encourage employees to double check who sent the email before responding and remind everyone in your team to look at the “from” line in emails to confirm the person the sender claims to be matches the email address they’re expecting. 

  • Ask employees to double check with the source when in doubt by contacting the person who the email is from to ensure that they were the sender. 

Encourage an open line of communication between your employees and the IT department in your company as this could help employees to distinguish between genuine and malicious emails and to report potential security threats.
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Human error is a major contributing factor to cybersecurity breaches 

According to a study by IBM, 95% of all security breaches are a result of human error. All it takes is an employee leaving a computer or phone somewhere and having it stolen. Even some of the most skilled people on your team may let their guard down and risk leaking data from essential files by sending files containing sensitive data to someone outside of the organization. Read more about how sending personal data through email can be the biggest reason for security breaches.

How to reduce the risks of human error in data breaches 

Cybercriminals are there to take advantage of your employees' mistakes, therefore it's important that you focus on creating a culture of awareness within your company by promoting cybersecurity best practices, supported by policies and procedures. You might not be able to eliminate human error all together, but it is possible to minimize it by incorporating some of the things mentioned below.  

  • It's all about making data security a part of everyday conversation and to be successful at this it's important that cybersecurity is prioritized on a leadership, group and individual level 

  • Make sure that awareness training and phishing training are accessible for everyone on your team  

  • Create awareness throughout your entire organisation by using security posters to educate your employees about the malicious methods used by cybercriminals, how they can be easy targets and how to spot potential threats  

  • Focus on building a sustainable cybersecurity culture by making the learning process enjoyable and engaging through the use of interactive and varied learning methods.

Ransomware attacks can cause costly disruptions to operations and the loss of critical data. 

Ransomware a malware designed to deny organizations access to files on their computer. By encrypting these files and demanding a ransom payment cybercriminals place organizations in a position where paying the ransom is the easiest and cheapest way to regain access to their files. Unlike traditional data theft attacks, in theory there is no stolen data in ransomware attacks, as a result most organizations treat ransomware attacks as a disaster recovery response rather than as a data breach. However currently nearly half of ransomware attacks steal your data before encrypting systems which means you can no longer treat ransomware attacks with a disaster recovery response alone as it involves stolen data which means the attack is a data breach. Ransomware attacks are more serious in nature because of the amount of data that could potentially be lost when a cybercriminal gains access to your entire system in comparison to when a data breach occurs due to human error from sending an email to the wrong recipient.

How to reduce the risk of ransomware attacks 

It is better is to reduce the risk of data breaches, rather than deal with the consequences once they have occurred. With that in mind here are our top tips on how you can reduce the risk of a ransomware attack. 

  • Train your employees to be vigilant when dealing with unsolicited emails as most malware is sent via phishing emails  

  • Keep software patched and updated. Make sure anti-malware applications, operating systems, and third-party software have the latest patch installed. New ransomware versions come out regularly, and software updates ensure that your anti-malware recognizes newer threats. 

  • Always have backups. The best way to recover from ransomware is to restore data from a backup. Backups bypass the ransom demand by restoring data from a source other than the encrypted files.  

  • Carry out regular security testing with internal and external specialists, to identify known vulnerabilities. 

Passwords remain one of the most sought-after pieces of information for hackers

A password breach is when someone has access to your password without your permission. Password breaches often result in company data being sold. Password breaches are a huge problem for several reasons, the first is that a cybercriminal can gain access to your online accounts and once your password is included in a data breach; your online security is greatly diminished. If you’re reusing a password for multiple accounts, all those accounts are then compromised.

How to reduce the risk of password attacks 

Password breach attacks require minimal effort for a skilled cybercriminal to pull off. Fortunately, keeping your company protected from password breaches is straightforward and it’s something that you should focus on doing in order to avoid an attack. We’ve made a list of steps you can follow to ensure that your company's passwords are protected.  

  • Ensure that employees are using strong passwords  

  • Choose an allotted time for passwords to expire and be reset by employees 

  • Ensure employees are using multi-factor authentication through a personal device to authenticate logins, this ensures that passwords are not the only way to gain access. 

  • Use biometrics like face id and fingerprints as it’s difficult to replicate your fingerprints or facial shape.


Protect yourself from data breaches  

We hope that you found this blogpost useful in understanding what a data breach is, what some of the different types of data breaches are and how you can reduce the risk of falling victim to any of these attacks. 

CyberPilot publishes a lot of content about how to build a strong cybersecurity culture, awareness training and cybersecurity. If you are curious to read more about how your organization can work towards creating a better cybersecurity culture, or actively work with awareness training, CyberPilot has many useful articles on our blog page