Data Breaches and the Embarrassing Reality Facing Businesses
Data breaches are a reality for many businesses in this digital age. A lot of sensitive information is stored digitally. This can include employee personal records, client details, and even trade secrets. Without data, many businesses would not exist, making data very valuable. However, data is such a commodity at the moment that it’s become a prime target for many cybercriminals.
We’ll be looking at what data breaches are, the different types, and what you can do to protect your business, such as using a proxy service and other protection measures.
In this article, we’ll cover the following topics on data breaches:
- What is a data breach?
- Some of the biggest recent data breaches
- What happens to your data once leaked?
- Protection against data breaches
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is a serious security violation in which sensitive and confidential data is copied, transmitted, moved, shared, or stolen by someone who doesn’t have the authority to do so. This means that data and information that should’ve been protected were leaked somehow. A data breach is usually different from a data attack or data hack in that it happens unintentionally. However, the term is often used interchangeably to mean both intentional and unintentional leaking of data.
Data breaches can happen simply because an employee sent information to the wrong person or left a network or system open on their computer without logging off, meaning anyone can access the information. Alternatively, data breaches can also be caused by more nefarious plans, such as advanced phishing attacks that convince a business employee to share login details, passwords, and other credentials that give the attacker access to the company’s systems, networks, and data.
Types of Data Breaches
No company is safe from data breaches. Even if a business has all the necessary security and protection measures in place, all it takes is one vulnerability, such as a program that hasn’t been updated or an employee working remotely from a public wifi network, to give attackers the chance to get at your company data. Data breaches aren’t limited to certain industries but can affect anyone, from university students to patients who’ve visited a hospital to travel agencies and airlines. All businesses are potential targets.
The seven most common types of data breaches include:
- Stolen information
- Password guessing
- Recording keystrokes
- Malware or virus
- DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack
Some of the Biggest Recent Data Breaches
Data breaches are increasing and becoming more common every year. In the first quarter of this year, 404 data breaches had already been reported. Here are a few of the most notable breaches from the year.
Red Cross – January 2022
This attack targeted a third-party company and gained access to half a million records. This includes documents that the Red Cross labeled as ‘extremely vulnerable’. In the end, thousands of people had their data stolen. Many of these individuals are currently missing or considered vulnerable. A political motive was suspected when the servers were taken offline for the investigation, but no culprits have been identified so far.
Ronin – March 2022
Ronin is a blockchain gaming platform that makes use of cryptocurrencies. One of Ronin’s blockchain games, Axie Infinity, grew so much in popularity that the developers scaled back the security on the servers to accommodate the increase in players. This allowed hackers to gain access to the servers and steal approximately $600 million in cryptocurrency (mostly spread across Bitcoin and Ethereum). While Ronin is working with lawyers and authorities to identify the culprits and recover the funds, the investigation hasn’t been successful yet. This is a very costly lesson for any business to learn.
Cash App – April 2022
In this situation, a disgruntled former employee breached Cash Apps servers and stole confidential records that contained users’ private data. Some of the stolen information included the users’ names, stock trading information, account numbers, portfolio values, and other financial information. Block, the app owner, hasn’t revealed the exact number of accounts affected, but they have contacted about 8 million people to inform them of the leak.
What Happens to the Data Once it’s Leaked?
While we all hope that our data goes to a deep dark corner of the web and dies, this is unfortunately not the case. As we mentioned, data is very valuable, so much so that certain businesses, institutions, and governments are willing to pay for data. As such, the data that gets leaked is used in some way. Businesses might also buy this information to assist with their marketing and advertising. These data sets often get sold to the highest bidder on the dark web. The information (depending on what it is) can then be used to launch more serious attacks such as identity theft, other forms of theft, political manipulation, and more.
Protection Against Data Breaches
There are various ways that businesses can protect themselves against data breaches. Using a proxy service is one of the most effective, especially when paired with other measures. Proxies hide your IP address giving your network anonymity online. This also means that users on your network cannot be tracked – which can disable the information gathering efforts of individuals planning a phishing attack. When choosing a proxy service, there are many reliable and secure choices, such as Smartproxy.
Another measure that protects businesses from data breaches is conducting frequent pen-testing (penetration testing) and vulnerability testing to scan, identify and address any potential security threats or vulnerabilities before being exploited.
Staff training is another critical component of limiting the chances of data breaches. Unfortunately, many data breaches occur due to user error, so frequent staff training, and education sessions can help limit these chances. This might also mean that businesses need to look at which members have access to their data. Businesses should limit access to data only to the individuals that need it for their work, rather than having it open to everyone.
Data breaches are a harsh reality facing many businesses. To stay safe and avoid the damages of the breaches, businesses need to stay ahead of the problem. There are different ways businesses can protect themselves, such as using proxy services, doing frequent security and pen testing, and training employees on data breaches. If businesses do nothing they could end up with a penalty of 2% of the business revenue when a data breach does occur. So, now’s not the time to laze about but rather to actively look at your business’s data security and what needs to be done to improve it.
This article has been published in accordance with Socialnomics’ disclosure policy.