7 Common causes of data breach: Safeguarding your digital assets

Data Breach is an ever-present threat to enterprises in today’s connected world. Whether you are a small SME or a large multinational company, the risk of a data breach and the company becoming another headline is a constant concern for senior management. It is not just financial loss that worries management but the loss of reputation and customer trust that can take years to recover if a data breach happens. This article reviews seven key issues that lead to a data breach and what can be done to mitigate these risks.

1. Weak and stolen passwords

Passwords remain the most popular security control and the entryway into applications and platforms in the modern era. While password controls have matured in recent years by incorporating features like password vaults, managers, and single sign-on technologies, they remain susceptible to attacks. Poor security awareness can cause users to share their passwords, reuse the same across applications or simply choose poor ones that are easily crackable, giving attackers an easy way into an environment. The most well-made cybersecurity framework can be compromised due to one password being shared by users.

To mitigate this risk, companies should invest in multi-factor authentication, improve their password guidelines and increase security awareness amongst users.

2. Insider threats

One of the most challenging threats in cybersecurity is insider threats. The possibility of a trusted individual misusing their approved access can be difficult to identify and mitigate. It is also not always malicious employees that cause a security breach ; negligent actions can lead to a security loophole being exploited, for example, a staff not following security policies, misconfiguring system settings, etc.

Insider Threats can be mitigated by deploying technologies like User Entity and Behavior Analytics (UEBA) that leverage on machine learning to identify anomalies, and Zero Trust Architectures that operate on the assumption that the network is potentially compromised and every action must be authorized.

3. Misconfigurations

Misconfiguration (due to human mistake or lack of knowledge) is a major source of data breach. Misconfiguration in infrastructure or software creates vulnerabilities. These lead to the security posture of a company being degraded, default passwords being used, open network ports, etc. This risk can be amplified in cloud environments where changes can quickly propagate to production environments via automated pipelines.

To mitigate these risks, companies should regularly review their infrastructure and software configurations, and continuously monitor their infrastructure.

4. Human error

Apart from negligence, genuine human error is another cause of data breach that is difficult to mitigate. A person accidentally emailing out sensitive information, clicking on malicious links, losing their laptops etc, are all risks that can cause severe security incidents for an organisation.

Along with awareness, cybersecurity teams should assume human errors will happen and implement controls such as data leakage policies, encryption, anti-phishing technology, etc., that can mitigate the impact of a human error.

5. Malware

Malware has been an ever-present threat since the early days of the Internet and is expected to remain so. Malware attacks continue to increase in sophistication yearly, with cybercriminals leveraging new technologies like AI to improve their attacks further.

To mitigate these risks, a multi-thronged approach is essential via a combination of user awareness, anti-malware controls, email filtering, and hardening the environment against vulnerabilities that will allow malware to gain a foothold. Regular patching is necessary, as unpatched systems are typically how malware can gain privileged access within an environment to execute further attacks. Backups can also serve as one defense against attacks like ransomware, and it is important to keep backups separate from the immediate environment to prevent the infection from affecting the backups.

6. Social engineering

Social Engineering attack is older than the Internet but was amplified in the digital era once cybercriminals realized how easy it was to abuse the anonymity offered by the Internet. Social Engineering refers to tricking people into disclosing sensitive information or carrying out actions that result in security compromises. It abuses human trust, the desire to be helpful, and the fear of getting into trouble.

The most common type of social engineering attack is phishing, which comes in various forms such as email, text messaging, chats, etc. The method is usually the same i.e. creates a sense of panic or urgency in the user that makes them divulge information or click on a malicious link/attachment. Awareness of existing and emerging types of social engineering attacks remains the best way to protect against this ever-present risk.

7. Supply chain issues

The Supply Chain can be a significant blind spot in a company’s cybersecurity defenses. Supply chain refers to the partners, vendors, and tools that are involved or connected to the company’s infrastructure. Attackers have realized that compromising the supply chain can give them a foothold in a company’s network far more quickly than attempting a direct compromise.

To mitigate these risks, companies must include their partners and software dependencies within their security risk management scope. Partners and Service providers should be vetted to meet a minimum baseline before connecting to a company’s environment.

Final thoughts

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field, and it is essential to be aware of the main threats vectors that can lead to data compromises. Companies can improve their security posture by prioritizing these risks and implementing mitigations against them. Implementation of technical and human-based controls are essential for a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. Security is an ongoing process and we can expect new risks to appear in the near future.

How User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) can help

User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) plays a crucial role in helping organizations mitigate the risk and impact of data breaches. InsiderSecurity’s Automated UEBA leverages machine learning algorithms to analyze user behaviour, detect anomalies, and identify potential insider threats. By monitoring user activities, InsiderSecurity detects unusual patterns, such as unauthorized access or abnormal data transfers, which may indicate malicious intent or compromised user accounts. InsiderSecurity’s UEBA offers valuable insights into user behaviour, allowing organizations to detect and respond to potential data breach risks effectively.

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