7 Ways on How to Limit Data Breaches

How to Limit Data Breaches


Today’s businesses run on data. They collect it from customers at every interaction, and they use it to improve efficiency, increase their agility, and provide higher levels of service. But it’s becoming painfully obvious that all of that data businesses collect has also made them an enticing target for cybercriminals.

It is becoming commonplace to hear of big security breaches. Consumers wonder how this keeps happening. It would seem like every company should be taking its data security very seriously. After all, a data breach typically costs millions of dollars and tarnishes the company’s reputation.

In the last few months, we’ve witnessed massive data breaches that targeted Neiman Marcus, Facebook, and the Robinhood stock trading app. And they’re hardly alone. In recent years, the number of data breaches worldwide has averaged close to three per day.

So how can you stop this from happening to your company? Is anyone really safe nowadays? Below, we discuss proven ways to prevent cyber security breaches from occurring at your company.


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Review Data Collection

The first step businesses need to take to increase the security of their customer data is to review what types of data they’re collecting and why. 

For example, it’s fairly standard to collect things like a customer’s name and email address. And if that’s all a business has on file, they won’t be an attractive target to an attacker.

But if the business has a sales cycle or customer support it probably collects home addresses, financial data, and demographic information, they’ve then assembled a collection that’s perfect for enabling identity theft if the data got out into the wild.

So, when evaluating each collected data point to determine its value, businesses should ask themselves: what critical business function does this data facilitate. If the answer is none, they should purge the data and stop collecting it. If there’s a valid answer, but of a function that’s not critical, the business should weigh the benefits the data creates against the possible harm they’d suffer if it were exposed in a breach. – source

Limit Data Access

The next step is to reduce the data’s attack surface by minimizing who has access to it.

In the old days, every employee had access to all the files on their computer. These days, companies are learning the hard way, to limit access to their more critical data.

After all, there’s no reason for a mailroom employee to view customer financial information. When you limit who is allowed to view certain documents, you narrow the pool of employees who might accidentally click on a harmful link.

Access controls play an outsize role in data protection because the theft of user credentials is the primary way that malicious actors find their way into protected systems.

And minimizing access to data has another beneficial side effect: it helps to prevent insider threats from causing a data breach. Research firm Forrester predicted that insider threats would lead to 31% of breaches this year – a number that will only grow from there.

So, by keeping sensitive customer data out of most employees’ hands in the first place, businesses are addressing internal and external threats at the same time. This is one of those common-sense solutions that companies probably should have been doing all along.


How to Limit Data Breaches


 Eliminate Passwords Wherever Possible

Even after reducing the number of people that have access to customer data, there’s still another way businesses can make it harder for hackers to gain access to it. And that’s to eliminate passwords as a primary authentication method wherever possible. It’s a small change that can make a world of difference.

 And there are a few ways to reduce reliance on conventional password authentication systems.

One is the use of two-factor authentication. This means accounts require both a password and a time-limited security token, typically delivered via app or SMS. But an even better approach is the use of hardware security keys. They’re physical devices that rely on unbreakable cryptographic credentials to control data access. 

Conduct Employee Security Awareness Training

According to recent surveys, employees are the weakest link in the data security chain. In spite of training, employees open suspicious emails every day that have the potential to download viruses. One mistake that employers make is thinking that one training class about cybersecurity is enough. If you’re serious about safeguarding your important data, schedule regular classes each quarter or even monthly. – Source

Update software regularly

Professionals recommend keeping all application software and operating systems updated regularly. Install patches whenever available. Your network is vulnerable when programs aren’t patched and updated regularly. Microsoft now has a product called Baseline Security Analyzer that can regularly check to ensure all programs are patched and up to date. This is a fairly easy and cost-effective way to strengthen your network and stop attacks before they happen.

Encrypt Data

It’s always possible for an attacker to exploit a software flaw or other security loophole to bypass the normal access control methods and gain access to customer data. Worst of all, such attacks are both difficult to detect and even harder to stop once in progress.

Any competent data protection plan is to ensure that all customer data remains encrypted at all times.

This means using software that employs strong encryption as data passes through it, networking hardware and components that employ encryption, and a data storage system that allows for data encryption at rest. Doing this minimizes the data access an attacker could gain without credentials and can help contain the damage if a breach does occur.


How to Limit Data Breaches


Develop a Cyber Breach Response Plan.

No matter how you look at it, there’s no such thing as perfect cybersecurity. Attackers are always hard at work looking for weaknesses to exploit. Businesses that prepare well will eliminate or minimize many of them. But that doesn’t mean a data breach will become impossible.

Developing a comprehensive breach preparedness plan enables both the employees and the employer to understand the potential damages that could occur. An employer should be very transparent concerning the scope of the breach; employees want to know the truth. A good response plan can limit lost productivity and prevent negative publicity. Employees feel angry when they find out that the company they work for had a data breach six months ago and told no one told them about it.

Your response plan should begin with an evaluation of exactly what was lost and when. Find out who is responsible whenever possible. By taking swift, decisive action, you can limit damages and restore public and employee trust.

Conclusion

The simple fact is that businesses that have yet to suffer a data breach are operating on borrowed time. And the odds are very much against them. But applying the framework detailed here will go a long way toward shifting the odds back in their favor. It will minimize the risk of a data breach, limit the damage if one does occur, and help the company deal with the aftermath. In the imperfect world that is the world of cybersecurity, there isn’t much more any business can ask for.

Source 1, Source 2


How to Limit Data Breaches

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