Data Breaches: What’s The Big Deal & How To Prevent Them

Data Breaches: What’s The Big Deal & How To Prevent Them

There have been hundreds of data breaches in the past few years, with new incidents emerging almost daily in online news outlets. While most understand that data breaches are harmful, there may be confusion about the nature, causes, and extent of financial damage they can inflict on the company. Data breaches can take multiple forms, from malicious attacks for monetary gain to disgruntled employees looking for payback, or opportunistic thieves exploiting human error. So what exactly is a data breach? Is it the same as a cyber attack? How can companies prevent them and mitigate the fallout when breaches do occur? Let’s dive in to answer these questions.

Data Breach Versus Cyber Attack: What’s the Difference?

Not all data breaches are cyber attacks, and not all cyber attacks are data breaches; however, the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. A data breach involves unauthorized access to, and potential distribution of, sensitive data to an untrusted third party. For instance, while it is acceptable for your doctor and healthcare provider to share your sensitive information, a data breach occurs when it is used by criminals to commit fraud, such as opening credit cards in your name.

In contrast, the target of a cyber attack extends beyond just data. Cyber attackers may be after money, military intelligence, trade secrets, or other valuable information. The key difference lies in the target – data breaches primarily concern sensitive personal information like names, credit card details, social security numbers, birthdays, etc. Although online digital data breaches are the most well-known, physical breaches can also happen. A data breach is also regarded to occur when tangible goods carrying sensitive data, such as hard disks, thumb drives, or hard-copy files, are stolen.

From Every Angle

When imagining a data breach, you may picture an anonymous figure wearing a dark hoodie exploiting company weaknesses for personal gain; and sometimes, this is accurate. External attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in websites, web browsers, or cloud storage, or use techniques such as SQL injection. By inputting malicious SQL in a website’s search bar, they trick the site’s database into revealing sensitive data, like social security numbers or other personally identifiable information (PII).

A well-known form of data breach and cyber attack is the ransomware attack. In such attacks, users or organizations are denied access to their system files until a ransom is paid to decrypt the system. Yet, a more mundane but prevalent risk is human error. Whether it’s falling victim to a phishing scam, clicking on a malicious link, or leaving an unlocked work laptop in public – these kinds of attacks will require more than an apology to fix.

Sometimes the attackers might be the employees themselves. Recall Nedry from Jurassic Park? A disgruntled employee, he deployed malicious code to disable the park’s camera and electrical system for his own personal gains. This scenario happens in real-world instances where current or former employees exploit their insider knowledge to sell sensitive data or embed malware, enabling system breaches.

How Expensive Is A Data Breach?

Hundred dollar bills fanned out in a man's hands.

According to the Cost of a Data Breach 2022 report from IBM, the price of a data breach on a global average is $4.35 million, whereas, in the United States, it is over double the cost at $9.44 million. The cost of a data breach is also dependent on the sector in which it occurs; a breach in the healthcare sector, on average, costs over ten million dollars. And the cost is rising with each year. Between 2020 and 2022, the cost of a data breach in the healthcare industry went up by 42%, earning its spot as the highest average data breach cost across industries for the 12th year in a row.

Prevention & Mitigation

According to IBM, In 2022, it took an average of 277 days, or nearly nine months, to identify and contain a data breach. By leveraging AI and automated security systems, some companies were able to reduce this timeline by 28 days, lowering the breach cost by approximately three million dollars. Swift response and proactive measures serve as mitigation, reducing the impact of data breaches. These effects can range from financial losses to compromised trust from customers and investors, and, more importantly, the loss or compromise of sensitive data.

Preparation is key in both preventing and mitigating the effects of data breaches. This involves encouraging employees to use strong, unique passwords, promptly updating software to prevent exploitation of system vulnerabilities, and raising awareness about malicious links, phishing emails, and the importance of securing work devices.

Before a data breach occurs, companies need a concrete plan in place. A designated individual should be responsible for identifying and reporting breaches, with a clear roadmap to eliminate confusion and save time. Much like conducting fire drills in schools, companies should run data breach drills, testing their response strategy’s effectiveness.

Redaction & Data Breaches

In order to mitigate the devastating effects of a data breach, companies could take the preventative measure of redacting all personally identifiable information that is not necessary to conduct business. This way, whether the data breach occurs with the theft of paper files or exploiting weaknesses within the Cloud, the exposure of sensitive information is limited. To accurately identify PII, distinguish what is necessary for business, and redact the rest – businesses need reliable, secure, and easy-to-use redaction software.

There are some options, like CaseGuard Studio, which is an all-in-one redaction solution that can be used to scrub PII from videos, audio files, documents, and images. Simply run CaseGuard’s powerful AI, select what you want to be detected, whether it’s facing in a video, banking information spoken in an audio file, license plates from multiple images, or names from a PDF file, choose a redaction effect to be applied, and CaseGuard Studio will automatically detect and redact the PII. In addition to its AI capabilities, there are a plethora of other tools such as manual redaction for unparalleled control, automatically generated reports that detail what changes have been made to the file and by who for accountability purposes, the ability to transcribe and translate audio files, and more.

To make things even more secure, CaseGuard is a local, on-premise software. This means that no file with sensitive information will be accidentally uploaded to the Cloud, becoming increasingly vulnerable to a data breach. Additionally, CaseGuard Studio is designed to function on an air-gapped system, making it the perfect redaction solution for a business that truly values the privacy of its customers.

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