What is a security breach?

What is a security breach, and how can you prevent it?

A security breach refers to an incident in which an unauthorized party gains access to a secure network, device, data, or program, often with the purpose of stealing confidential or sensitive data. Cybercriminals usually gain access by bypassing the security measures that were put in place to protect the targeted system. Data security breaches can have a large impact on an organization, leading to severe financial, operational and reputational damage.

It’s important to understand common types of security breaches, the risks associated with security breaches, and how you can prevent them through strong security measures, such as web and email security.

Types of security breaches

There are many different types of security breaches. Some common examples include:

  • Malware, viruses, ransomware – Malware, or malicious software, as well as viruses, include types of software designed to infect a system and thereby allow malicious actors to gain access to a network. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts data and demands payments in return for decryption.
  • Social engineering – This entails malicious actors using psychological means to trick users into divulging personal information or credentials. A common type of social engineering is phishing, where the malicious actor masks themselves as a legitimate contact to gain the user’s trust, often through emails, an infected website, or other methods of online communication. Sometimes, the phishing attempt is targeted at a specific person – this is called spearphishing.
  • Insider attacks – This is when someone inside an organization steals sensitive data, or acts in a negligent way, leaving a network vulnerable to attack. Sometimes, a malicious insider is authorized to access sensitive data, but misuses their privileges, leading to the same damaging results as a regular data breach, or worse.
  • Hacking – This is a general term that covers any method through which unauthorized parties gain access to a secure network. Hacking can include anything from the simplest manual techniques, such as guessing a password, to using more advanced, automated tools.
  • DDoS attacks – A denial-of-service attack is when a hacker crashes a website by flooding it with traffic. This is often done in order to overwhelm the security measures protecting an organization, allowing the hacker to gain access to the network.

Security breach causes

There are many causes of security breaches. These can include:

Weak password policy or authentication process

If your users reuse simple passwords to access different parts of your organization and their own devices, you’re at an increased risk of a data breach, since reuse of credentials makes it far easier for hackers to get easy access to your network.

Out-of-date software

Often, allowing software to get out-of-date creates security vulnerabilities that increase the risk of a successful hacking attempt that can lead to a data breach. This is especially true when updates are meant to address critical vulnerabilities that have been identified in the software.

Inadequate employee training

If your employees are not trained well in the importance of maintaining network security and how to identify suspicious activity, emails, IMs or other content, they may end up installing malware, falling for a phishing attempt, or storing sensitive data in an unsafe manner and increasing your risk of a data breach. According to the Ponemon Institute’s 2022 Cost of Insider Threats report, 56% of all security incidents in 2022 were the result of a negligent insider – a user who did not follow security policies and therefore failed to keep their credentials and devices secure and up-to-date.

Insufficient security measures

If your network is not sufficiently protected by security measures that close all the gaps between the devices, applications, and data in your network, you are vulnerable to a data breach attempt.

Cloud security breaches

A cloud security breach is when a malicious party gains access to data stored in the cloud.

The more cloud-based services you use, and the more remote devices used to access your network, the more entry points there are through which a hacker could gain access. According to the 2021 Gartner CIO Survey, up to 64% of employees are working from home, meaning a lot more remote access, and a lot more unmanaged devices.

In recent years, the percentage of ransomware cyber incidents initiated by attacks on applications surfaces increased to over half of all incidents, with most attributed to hackers exploiting app vulnerabilities and misconfigurations of public-facing app surfaces. When the initial attack vector is an application vulnerability, hackers can quickly move laterally to gain access to data, often resulting in data encryption, or stealing sensitive, valuable company data in order to blackmail the targeted company.

Of course, this risk doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use cloud computing, but it does mean that you should take definite steps to secure all cloud native applications and data.

How to prevent data breaches

According to the 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report, the global average cost of a data breach is a staggering $4.35 million, making it crucial that organizations understand how to prevent security breaches.

There are a number of security measures that your organization can implement in order to reduce the risk of a security breach.

Strong password and authentication policies

Ensure that your organization uses strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, which will make it harder for a hacker to gain access to your network.

Keeping systems up to date

Ensure that all components of your system are kept up-to-date, as many updates include security patches that fix vulnerabilities, protecting from the latest threats.

Provide employee training

Educate employees on the importance of network security and protecting their data, how to recognize social engineering attempts, and the procedures they should follow in order to ensure network security, including reporting possible security incidents.

Use security measures that protect data

Many security tools are available to protect your network from a security breach. You should ensure that your data is encrypted both at rest, and when in transit.

It’s also highly recommended to use a Zero Trust approach to security, under which granular access is given to specific users at the level of an individual resource, and only after authentication, to reduce the risk that unauthorized actors could gain access to a network. This is especially important when it comes to ways to prevent a cloud security breach. Sny solutions chosen should provide protection for both on-site and cloud-based components of your network.

A comprehensive security platform, such as a Ericom SASE platform, includes numerous Zero Trust tools that can be used to ensure secure access to your network, applications and data, wherever they are located. For example, it includes a CASB (cloud-access security broker), which acts as an intermediary between end users and a cloud service provider, allowing you to implement comprehensive enterprise security policies throughout your network infrastructure, both on-premises and in the cloud.

Monitor your network and develop an incident response plan

Ensure you have tools in place that can monitor your network to quickly identify unusual activity, so that you can respond in a timely manner. Create a detailed security response plan that can be carried out in the event of a suspected breach, to minimize the possible damages and re-secure the network as fast as possible.

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