In this post, we expose how vulnerable most businesses are to cyberattacks and what company management can do about it. Consider this; in the first half of 2019, data breaches exposed 4.1 billion records, and yet many companies mistakenly believe they’re impervious to a data breach.
This mindset is problematic as cybercriminals are becoming significantly more sophisticated, targeting all sized businesses with multi-tiered attacks. The threat of experiencing a data breach is massive. It’s a setback that could stall your fast-growing company for months. What’s worse, a data breach could bottleneck your progress indefinitely or cause you to shutter. Here’s how to protect your company from a harmful data breach.
What’s a Data Breach?
According to the US Department of Justice, a breach is:
“The loss of control, compromise, unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized acquisition, or any similar occurrence where (1) a person other than an authorized user accesses or potentially accesses personally identifiable information (PII) or (2) an authorized user accesses or potentially accesses PII for an other than authorized purpose. It includes both intrusions (from outside the organization) and misuse (from within the organization).”
In short, a data breach occurs when a cybercriminal gains unauthorized access to private or personal files. In the past decade, cybercriminals have compromised over 100,000 digital files. Some of the most at-risk industries include Healthcare, SaaS, and Fintech, to name a few. Truthfully, any company is a potential target.
Unfortunately, the threat of data breaches has increased significantly since 2005, when companies moved from paper to digital. It’s safe to say that cybercriminals have come a long way since the 1970s computer virus, “the Creeper.”
Large-scale cyber attacks are no small worry for executives nowadays. In fact, among the top five risks to global stability include cyberattacks — but there’s room for improvement.
6 Ways to Protect Against a Data Breach
Here are a few practical ways a rapidly-evolving business can protect itself against these disruptive crimes.
1. Establish Identity Management
Ideas and practices flow from the head down, which means that cybersecurity starts with management. To begin with, company leaders must establish and enforce reliable identity management processes.
This cautious approach means:
- Handling access credentials properly
- Monitoring privileged account security policies
- Maintaining adequate IT support
- Keeping a password policy
- Require security awareness training
As mentioned, it’s not uncommon for company leaders to belong to an “it won’t happen to us” school of thought. Unfortunately, many victims of cyberattacks believed the same thing and became lax with their identity management.
Remember, the first line of defense against damaging threats is to safeguard the identity of your staff. This pragmatic approach will help to protect your business from a data breach.
2. Support Security Awareness
The four main strategies cybercriminals use to steal information include:
- Malware – malicious software that harmfully probes systems
- Ransomware – software that gains access to and then restricts access to vital information
- Phishing – scams where hackers gain access to confidential information
- Denial of Service (DoS) – attacks where the cybercriminal disrupts network resources
In the mid-90s, AOL was the first victim of the “phishing” strategy in As you might have guessed, rumbles of this stealthy strategy haven’t subsided since the AOL ploy.
Business must be equally as vigilant to battle the secretive master plans of cybercriminals. No longer can leaders depend solely on their IT staff to protect vital data. Instead, companies must train employees to spot cyber threats and handle the company’s data correctly, including:
- No hard-coding or embedding passwords
- Deactivating unused credentials
- Managing identity controls
Additionally, fast-growing businesses can’t slack on software updates. These updates are essential to ongoing development. Another layer of protection is to implement two-factor authentication for logins. Although increased security awareness takes more time and diligence, the results are well worth it.
3. Avoid Security Flaws
According to an IDC Spending Guide, companies in 2019 spent over $103 billion on security-related hardware, software, and services. Industry experts expect that price tag to increase to $134 billion in the next couple of years. And yet, businesses are still experiencing data breaches at lightning speed.
A significant holdup to securing adequate cybersecurity is known as the “silver bullet” solution. In other words, most companies depend on their IT staff and security-related services to protect them 100% of the time.
Cybersecurity is a company-wide issue involving the business’s entire workforce. Relying only on security technology is a lot like building one-layer walls when you honestly need ten layers. Each layer contributes to the overall protection plan, but one layer of technology or even an IT team won’t cut it any longer. Instead, rely on multiple layers to protect your business from a data breach.
4. Practice Resiliency
Some cyberattacks, such as phishing and malware, steal vital data with the intent of profiting from its use. Other attacks, such as ransomware and DoS, disrupt business operations as opposed to taking data outright.
Additionally, consider what would happen to your business if a natural disaster occurs. Suppose a fire, flood, or tornado tore through your office over the weekend. Does your company have a business continuity plan? What about a disaster recovery plan? Do you have other copies of your company’s vital data so business operations can carry on?
Having professional resilience typically means being prepared for the worst-case scenario while hoping for the best. That said, resiliency is critical in terms of handling disruptive risk and can help to protect from a data breach.
To sum up, prepare for business disruptions by storing several copies of your vital data elsewhere. And have a recovery plan in place, so you aren’t scrambling when the time comes.
5. Manage Supplier Risk
Many professionals forget that third-party supplies experience data breaches, too. And these attacks can be as devastating for your business as a direct hit. Third-party vendors usually have some access to a company’s vital data.
That said, nearly 60% of businesses have experienced a third-party data breach at some point. Surprisingly, a large portion of companies don’t honestly know if a third-party data breach has impacted them — but the risk is still there.
An excellent approach to mitigating this issue is acknowledging the vulnerabilities your company faces in its ongoing third-party relationships. For example, assess the vendors’ data security risk during the onboarding process. Plus, it’s vital to establish contractual procedures for handling a third-party data breach.
6. Invest in Cyber Insurance
Lastly, when all else fails, cyber insurance offers the protection you need from costly and complicated lawsuits. The average data breach has a $4 million price tag, after all. Not only can the legal fees rack up from third parties quickly, but you might also face fines and penalties from regulators.
Data restoration can cost your company thousands upon thousands of dollars. Many businesses never make it to the other side of a data breach, unfortunately. However, cyber insurance works to cover the excruciating cost of restoring data after it’s been compromised. It gives your business the tools necessary to get back on its fee.
Additionally, many cyber insurance policies can cover income lost and payroll spent during your business’s downtime when it is not operational. This type of coverage provides a crisis management partner at a time when you need it most.