Data breaches have become a regular occurrence, and they carry a heavy cost for an organization. In 2022, the average cost of a data breach in the United States was $9.44M.
While any organization can be the victim of a data breach, there are steps that an organization can take to manage its data breach risks. Here, we outline five steps an organization can take to prevent data breaches.
How to prevent data breaches
Data breaches can cause significant harm to an organization, its customers, and its brand image. A successful data breach can result in the loss of corporate intellectual property, customer data, or other sensitive information. However, an organization can manage this risk by implementing these five best practices.
- Establish clear policies and procedures
Although most data breaches involve employees in most cases, these trusted insiders aren’t trying to harm the organization. Negligence, misunderstandings, and lack of knowledge of corporate security policies put an organization’s data security at risk.
Preventing accidental data breaches requires clear communication of corporate security policies. All employees, contractors, and other trusted insiders should sign corporate security policies and confidentiality agreements. By doing so, an organization reduces the risk of accidents because everyone with access to sensitive data understands how that data can be used and how it should be protected.
- Secure hiring and termination procedures
Onboarding and offboarding present some of the greatest risks to an organization’s data security. Employees entering the organization are granted access to corporate resources, which determines the risk that they pose to the company. 40% of departing US employees admit to taking corporate data with them, abusing their legitimate access, and breaching sensitive company data.
Secure onboarding and hiring processes are essential to managing an organization’s risk of data breaches. New hires’ access should be tailored to their role, and departing employees’ access to corporate resources should be managed and monitored to ensure that corporate data doesn’t walk out the door with them.
- Monitor access and activity
Visibility is one of the biggest challenges organizations face when attempting to manage their risk of data breaches. 43% of companies don’t know where their data is, making it impossible to protect it effectively.
As corporate IT infrastructure and data stores grow and expand, attempting to monitor and manage them manually is unscalable and unsustainable. Companies need tools that automatically discover, map, and track what is deployed across their entire network infrastructure, servers, databases, and more.
This provides crucial visibility into how corporate systems are used and how data moves through them, which is essential to identifying and halting potential data breaches.
- Implementing data security in the endpoint
As remote work grows more common, on-prem perimeter-focused data loss prevention (DLP) solutions are no longer enough. Employees working remotely will be directly connected to the Internet, and remote users’ devices may store sensitive corporate data.
Managing data breach risks for distributed and remote enterprises requires DLP solutions that monitor and secure remote users’ mobile devices and desktop computers. This allows the IT staff to determine what sensitive data is leaving, when, and through which specific channel or device based on the organization's defined compliance rules for data protection.
- Use data breach prevention tools
Sensitive corporate data can be breached in various different ways. Employees may upload it to unapproved cloud-based applications. Malware may collect and exfiltrate from infected computers. Phishing attacks may trick employees into handing it over to an attacker.
Data breach prevention tools are essential to maintaining visibility and control over an organization’s sensitive data. These solutions can ensure that data is stored securely, monitor how it is accessed and used, and block detected exfiltration attempts.
Recommended data breach prevention tools
Various data breach prevention tools are available that put a range of capabilities at an organization’s disposal. Some recommended tools that a company can use to manage its risk of data breaches include
- Falcon Insight (by Crowdstrike): Crowdstrike’s Falcon Insight provides valuable visibility into an organization’s endpoints. Solutions deployed on employee devices can detect and block attempted data breaches and support forensic analysis of potential leaks.
- UpGuard BreachSight: UpGuard’s BreachSight provides monitoring of an organization’s security to identify potential leaks of employee credentials, customer data, and other sensitive information.
- Prey’s Kill Switch: Kill Switch manages an organization’s risk of data breaches due to lost or stolen devices. Organizations can remotely lock or wipe devices, track their location, and take other steps to prevent the exposure of sensitive data and account credentials stored on these devices.
- FortiSandbox (by Fortinet): Fortinet’s FortiSandbox analyzes traffic in an isolated environment using a wide range of detection techniques. This allows it to identify and block malware from gaining access to an organization’s environment, where it could steal and exfiltrate sensitive information.
- InsiderSecurity: Insider Security’s solutions perform behavioral monitoring of user accounts, databases, and other systems. Using automated data analytics, it can identify potential threats to corporate data, enabling rapid incident response.
- SpyCloud: SpyCloud provides insight into data released on the Dark Web after a cybercriminal has stolen it. This allows organizations to identify previous, missed data breaches and take action to close the security gaps exploited by the attackers.
Data breach response plan
In today's cyber-threat environment, having a well-defined incident response plan (IRP) is essential for businesses. An IRP provides organizations with a clear roadmap to follow in case of a data breach, minimizing the impact and reducing the response time to the incident. The plan should include the following:
- Determining the nature and extent of the breach
- Evaluating the risk to data and systems
- Allocating responsibility
Effective incident response plans ensure that companies can respond quickly, reducing the potential damage to their reputation and customer trust. A great IRP can also help companies comply with various data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
A successful data breach can result in losing an organization’s intellectual property, customer data, or other sensitive information. By managing the risk of data leakage, an organization can save itself from an expensive and embarrassing data breach.
Companies can suffer data breaches from multiple different sources, both internal and external. Effectively managing the risk of data leaks involves detecting and protecting against external threats, managing the risks insiders pose to the organization, and implementing robust data monitoring and management practices.
To effectively protect against data breach incidents, an organization needs the right tools for the job. This includes solutions that can protect against threats that come over the network and device security solutions that can prevent data leaks from lost and stolen devices.
What else do you need to know: FAQ
What is a data breach?
A data breach is when an unauthorized individual or organization gains access to, steals, or otherwise exposes sensitive or confidential information.
What are the consequences of a data breach?
The consequences of a data breach can be severe and wide-ranging. They can include monetary and reputation damages, legal liability, and loss of customers' trust. In addition, the information exposed in a data breach can also be used for identity theft, fraud, and other malicious activities.
What causes data breaches?
There are many different ways that data breaches can happen. Weak passwords, unpatched software vulnerabilities, phishing attacks, employee ignorance or maliciousness, insecure network setups, and third-party data sharing are common causes of data breaches.
What measures can companies take to prevent data breaches?
Organizations can prevent data breaches by implementing security measures, such as regularly updating software and security patches, implementing strong password policies, training employees on cybersecurity, and securing networks with firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and encryption technologies.
What should individuals do to protect themselves from data breaches?
Using strong and unique passwords for each online account, enabling two-factor authentication (2FA), being cautious when exchanging personal information online, monitoring their financial accounts and credit reports, keeping their devices' software updated, and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks.
How to handle data breaches?
Data breaches must be contained, the impacted parties must be informed, an investigation must be conducted, and corrective actions must be implemented. Therefore, having a thorough incident response plan that includes team participation and isolating the affected systems is crucial.
What is considered the biggest data breach of all time?
The Yahoo data breach in 2013–2014 was the largest data breach ever regarding the number of records compromised. The breach entailed the theft of names, email addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, hashed passwords, and security questions and answers, and it compromised Yahoo's 3 billion user accounts.
What countries had the most data breach cases in 2022?
According to SurfShark, Russia has moved from being the fourth-ranked country in 2021 to the top-ranked country in 2022 for data breaches, with one-third of all such leaks occurring there. China, the U.S., France, and Indonesia follow in the ranking. (SurfShark)