During Q3 2022, about 15 million data records were exposed globally through data breaches, according to Statista. Individuals and companies alike have experienced cyberattacks lately, and this only makes us wonder whether there is any cause for such catastrophes.
Throughout time, big-name organisations such as Yahoo, Target, and Equifax have fallen prey to data breaches. However, today’s numbers are more alarming than ever. In 2022, for example, cyberattacks on UK companies surged 77 percent, as new research reveals. Also, the worldwide volume of cyber threats achieved an all-time high in Q4 2022, with an average of 1,168 weekly breaches per enterprise. SMBs are more prone to deal with the long-term effects of a data breach, as they often don’t have the same amount of financial resources as well-established, large corporations. However, even big companies can be affected by this kind of malicious activity, depending on the type of attack and the harm made. In general, a data breach is a disaster for many businesses, and if it’s not the funds affected, it’s undoubtedly the company’s reputation. So, apart from system vulnerabilities, is there anything else that contributes to this massive growth of data breaches?
Let’s discuss it in more detail in the following.
Social engineering is among the most common causes of data spills for organisations and companies worldwide. It’s also one of the easiest methods to compromise an individual or firm, as it doesn’t require creating access points. Instead, it’s based on psychological manipulation to deceive (or ‘engineer’) users into giving up their account details, including passwords. This kind of attack is performed using social networks, SMS messages, emails, and even calls. Bad actors nowadays dispose of advanced technologies and could easily exploit systems using modern tools and apps, so why do they resort to such a tactic as social engineering? Because no matter how harsh this might sound, they take advantage of the online gullibility of individuals and companies’ vulnerabilities. Because of the lack of cybersecurity awareness globally, hackers and scammers can trick many people into exposing themselves and their businesses.
Phishing is by far the most employed type of social engineering. This involves someone impersonating institutions, most frequently banks, asking for the user’s financial information under the pretence of helping them. When carried out professionally to reflect a sense of enterprise urgency, a social engineering attack will seem very believable to a victim without enough knowledge of cyber threats.
Any company needs some application to run operations and perform certain tasks. Applications are also critical to keeping data safe and sound, helping employers keep track of their companies’ most sensitive information – customer data, marketing strategies, sales numbers, etc. However, apps aren’t developed on perfect frameworks – after all, they are pieces of software, hence based on a coding language, and could anytime be compromised, obviously through coding.
Scammers are becoming more sophisticated with each day passing, so ensure you keep your software apps and operating systems (OSs) updated. Also, release a patch immediately after finding a weakness in your systems not to give hackers a backdoor to your valuable information. Remember that any vulnerability, regardless of its gravity, creates an opportune pathway into sensitive data. This allows bad actors to start the initial phase of the leak lifecycle and eventually catapult them into the privilege escalation stage – the only remaining phase before a data spill.
Nevertheless, the unexpected can hit regardless of your level of preparation. Unfortunately, hackers make use of very sophisticated technologies and smart tactics, and they’ve honed their skills over the years. How do you think they manage to compromise the networks of big names like Yahoo, Microsoft, and Binance? In such situations, the best you can do is to take the necessary legal steps as soon as you notice something wrong in your systems. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll be able to claim data breach compensation in the UK for any loss you might have to suffer, be it material or psychological.
Improper permission management
Too many permissions could also be a cause of data breaches, so if you have just shared access to an entire department or all departments to the company’s network, we recommend revising your options. If you don’t keep a tight rein on who can access what within your company, you’re prone to fall prey to a data leak, not because you gave the wrong permissions to the wrong individuals (although this is a point, too) but because hackers know well how to take advantage of such weaknesses.
Still, if ongoing access is necessary for all employees, ensure good permission management is in place. In this sense, the best you can do is to keep an access registry and see who accessed what, when they do that, where they access systems from, and the purpose behind this action. Based on this, you can eventually establish rules on how many individuals need limited or restricted access. If handled properly, this could be a robust data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.
Last on the list, but not the least dangerous, is the physical theft of company devices. Since such devices contain sensitive data, some cyber actors prefer to steal them directly rather than write complicated pieces of code to compromise the apps installed on them. However, this isn’t just about laptops and computers: CDs, DVDs, thumb drives, hard drives, and even servers could also be of great importance.
Most cybercriminals are very knowledgeable about human psychology, so they’re unstoppable when it comes to theft strategies. Online scams are disheartening, but physical attacks are downright frightening – let’s be honest – because people really fear for their lives.
However, just because these people resort to physical theft doesn’t mean they can’t be sneaky. They can appear at your door disguised as company employees or delivery persons in order to access your servers or computers. So, we recommend having a top-notch entry verification system in place to detect unauthorised parties and not give them access to your company’s assets.
Data breaches are more common than ever, so your business must prepare thoroughly. Luckily, tips of the likes mentioned above are of great help in this sense.