The Most Common Mistakes in Data Protection | How Companies Let the Hackers In?

Common Mistakes in Data Protection

We all know that the data is the new oil. We’ve heard it plenty of times. Data and the ways we deal with it are the foundation of our daily lives. Data is the treasure, and, as any treasure, it must be safe. Unfortunately, the data protection breach is an integral part of modern life as well.

Data integrity and safety are under constant threat. According to the latest stats on data breaches, the percent of cybercrimes increases constantly. In only five years, the “share” of breaches caused by criminals increased more than twice. The criminals’ approaches become more sophisticated. As a result, intrusions are hidden. It takes many months to identify them and apply measures – up to 10-11 months.

Data integrity and safety are under constant threat. According to the latest stats on data breaches, the percent of cybercrimes increases constantly. In only five years, the “share” of breaches caused by criminals increased more than twice. The criminals’ approaches become more sophisticated. As a result, intrusions are hidden. It takes many months to identify them and apply measures – up to 10-11 months.

Does it mean that the data protection breach is an inevitable evil that we can’t fight? Something like a natural disaster, a kind of an earthquake or tsunami? Not at all. Most of them are preventable. To get to the data and leak them, deliberately or accidentally, one needs a doorway, and the majority of such doorways are well-known. The primary problem is that many companies tend to miss or ignore them. Knowing the common mistakes of data protection is the way to prevent data leaks.

However, before we explore these mistakes, let’s clarify the data spill cases and their reasons. They define the ways that cybercriminals use and which might also lead to accidental leaks.

Most Common Types of the Data Security Breaches

The breach definition is that some external agent, a person or a program, accesses the data of the particular organization without permission. It may have different consequences, but their essence is the same: internal sensitive data get revealed to some third party having dubious intentions. The data can be stolen for further blackmailing or other compromising. Also, such intruders quite often install viruses and spyware to add more damage. Even accidental, it can cause a disaster, let alone cybercriminals’ attacks.

As the modern world is impossible without digitization, all businesses must be present online. There, they are vulnerable. Becoming the victims of cybercrimes has long-lasted effects. There are direct financial losses as the obvious consequences of losing sensitive or confidential information. However, the blow is even harder for the company’s reputation. Customers lose their trust and loyalty, preferring to switch to other businesses that care better about their security.

Appropriate protection starts from understanding how criminals get access to the secured data. At the moment, specialists define several most common cyber attack types.

Using malicious software

It is, perhaps, the best-known attacking method. Even if your area has nothing to do with digital security, you’d heard about computer viruses, spyware, and so on. These means can break into the networks, bypass or eliminate the standard protection means, and find the necessary data. Further, such “robots” may steal, manipulate, or destroy the information. Quite often, they even take the whole system down. Most likely, you’ve heard about the recent attacks, such as the WannaCry virus attack in 2017.

Computer viruses and spyware aren’t airborne, of course. They get to computer systems in different ways, usually by emails and links. A user has to open that door and invite the enemy to come in by opening the email or clicking on the link.

These agents are of many types. having different specializations. Some of them encode your computer files or affect the major apps. Others intercept the control over your system, and you won’t unblock it easily. Viruses can penetrate the system and stay hidden until the trigger. They steal your data, ruin your files, or demand ransom. Anyone and anything can become the victim of malicious software.

Impersonation

An intruder sneaks to the company pretending to be someone with access rights. The popularity of this method increased significantly after mass switching to remote work due to the “stay home” COVID-19 policy. One of the reasons is the impossibility to physically control the personnel.

Previously, the company could see and confirm the people in the office are those who have the right to be there. Now, with the remote working, it is quite problematic. The person logging into the system from home with the employee’s credentials may be an impersonator. Add that fact that people working from home may be less careful about security. Now you can see why it is riskier.

Old “traditional” impersonating methods are also here. Criminals sneak to the companies online using some already established connection. People who did not care to enable VPN to encrypt their data, got their traffic intercepted and their IP details revealed. This is a common practice in public WIFI hotspots like airports, bus stations, cafes, where visitors tend to connect to the Internet quickly and for free.

The most straightforward doorway for an impersonator’s intrusion is through an authorized device. Thieves steal laptops, tablets, smartphones, USB sticks with information. Then, the information stored on them comes into the possession of criminals.

DDoS attacks

A rude and powerful DDoS attack can damage the entire website severely or even crash it for good. The whole network can get down after such attacks. The principle of the distributed-denial-of-service (DoS) attack is overloading the system with traffic. That traffic comes from various sources, and the number of requests exceeds the system resource capacities. As a result, the company can’t operate.

In terms of data spill, DDoS attacks don’t open access to sensitive information. Mostly, hackers use this method to block the company’s work. Sometimes, they may demand ransom for stopping attacks. However, DDoS attacks can be a part of a more complicated invasion. This tactic distracts the security officers, while criminals use other means to get to their aims.

Phishing

It is an old but still efficient substitution tactic. A victim receives an email from a company where it has an account. It is a reputable and trusted company, such as PayPal, Facebook, Amazon, your banks, etc. As a rule, the email requires the user to follow an embedded link, or log in with the user’s credentials, or even provide some other personal data.

This message looks okay, and the reason to demand such actions seems convincing. However, in many cases, the texts might seem odd, unnatural, or have errors. The essence is, when users follow the links or enter their data into the login form, let alone providing additional information, these data get in possession of criminals. This breach’s definition is phishing.

Standard fishing messages are easy to identify, and this method is well known. You only have to be attentive and careful in order not to become a victim here. That’s why criminals send many thousands of such messages to many thousands of addresses, counting on the law of probability. However, there is a more targeted variant of this approach called spearfishing.

Spearfishing makes the message seem more trustworthy. The thieves research their potential victims, check their profiles on social media and activities in online resources. This way, they may adjust the fishing message for the necessary person, making them believe it’s real. This message can come assumingly from the employer’s, a colleague, a friend, or a family member – from someone whom the victim trusts by default.

Often, criminals only want to get their hands on the victims’ login data, but they can also demand additional information and even transfer funds.

Compromised passwords

Lots of users don’t bother to create strong passwords, let alone store them securely and change regularly. There are several commonly used passwords that too many users take. Frequently, people use the same combinations of letters and meaningful numbers. One more problem is that users tend to keep the same passwords for many resources and accounts.

Cybercriminals are well familiar with all these tendencies. They use social engineering and trick their victims. Even with the best encryption, one correct password stolen provides them with all kinds of aces. With one password, criminals can try accessing other resources, including bank accounts. They can steal money directly or use personal confidential information as potential blackmailing materials.

Intercepting network traffic

This method is relative to impersonation. The difference is, the criminal poses as a trusted server, thus intercepting your login credentials, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and other sensitive and valuable data Another way is to interfere with your channel and catch the information passing through it. Needless to say, the most vulnerable users are those working through unprotected connection channels without VPN encryption tools.

These are the most common and effective methods used by cybercriminals to get hold of your data. Of course, they aren’t the only ones. Cybercrimes evolve extremely, adding new means on the verge of technologies and social engineering every day. However, the lion’s share of data spill rests on the methods mentioned above. Here the primary catch lies.

As you’ve probably noticed, most of these data breaches require “holes” in security systems. To happen, they need the protectors at least not to oppose them. On the other side, the errors letting the cybercriminals get what they want are well-known too. Still, these errors persist.

Knowing which holes let the criminals get in is the first and most crucial step on the way to building an efficient security system.

The Biggest Mistakes of Data Protection and How to Fix Them?

Making assumptions instead of relying on facts

It might seem strange, but even modern companies don’t audit their security statuses appropriately. They might delegate this job to their IT departments, but the truth is, those specialists might not possess specific knowledge and practical skills. Another problem is that companies may develop exclusive policies, but they won’t test them to define their real efficiency.

Assumptions lead to the wrong evaluation of the entire environment. Many times, companies ignore the potential risks because they don’t consider themselves to be vulnerable. “It won’t happen to us.” Unfortunately, it happens to anyone, which is proven by the data leaks from Facebook, Nintendo, Zoom, the Marriott hotel chain, many healthcare systems, etc.

Solution: audit and test your security systems properly!

Order external audits from cybersecurity experts. Consult them on the necessary policies and their implementation in your company. By all means, test all your security systems regularly, update and improve them any time it is necessary. Always use the latest and most efficient means and tools. Regular tests must take place for all devices, applications, and databases used in the company.

Don’t rely on firewalls and antivirus only. Invest in quality security training for your IT people. Subscribe to the specialized resources discussing the cases of digital security and data protection. The most essential thing is to stay vigilant regarding the new security threats and solutions.

Ignoring overall security policies on all company levels

One of the biggest mistakes is getting the data protection issues confined to the IT department. Security is a comprehensive constant involving activities on all levels. Vulnerabilities can happen in any element, from hardware to people’s behavior. It is not limited to the question of how to encrypt your Internet connection. Data security relates to everything.

Solution: make security a constant subject!

Security guarantees and potential risks must always be present in discussions between the Chief managers. Research the problems and get metrics and calculations for your revenues and potential losses. Data safety demands resources, and you have to invest in it. So, make sure to prepare weighty arguments with numbers to convince CEOs to allocate resources.

Create comprehensive data protection standards and policies. You may order them from third-party experts or develop them internally. In any case, make sure to cover the best encryption for all data. The documents must state how you collect and classify the data, how often it happens, where you store it, and when to update it.

Determine people who can access the data and on which level. Elaborate on ways to get authorized and additional checks to prove their rights to access.

Missed “shadow” IT channels

Your company may have hundreds of guidelines and regulations. However, they are as efficient as obeyed. You work with people. Some of them might not follow those requirements, creating the so-called “shadow IT channels.” It does not mean they will leak the information deliberately (though insider leaks are a common problem). Data security breaches might happen accidentally, especially when your employees use their devices.

Solution: monitor the user activity and identify all access points.

Whether your employees access the data in the office or remotely, you have to log their connections and activities. The COVID-19 consequences suggested many million users accessing their work resources from homes or public places. Care to provide the VPN encryption to such connections. Allow only authorized users through those VPN channels.

The burning necessity is to know who connects to your resources every moment, which resources, and what those people do with data. By monitoring all access points, you can define suspicious connections and actions immediately to block access to the resources. Also, you will determine the sources of malicious acts of unauthorized intrusion.

Undereducated employees

It might seem strange these days when our offline and online lives are intertwined so closely. Still, it remains true – a lot of people don’t possess appropriate knowledge on how to ensure their safety on the Web. Neither do they have the necessary skills? Otherwise, the lion’s share of the data security breaches described earlier would not happen.

In many companies, employees, especially those whose daily routines don’t require in-depth IT knowledge, aren’t aware of cybersecurity practices and their importance. As they don’t know how to protect themselves, they can miss the threat and let it into the work areas.

Solution: train the employees on digital security policies and practices!

Schedule regular training sessions on cybersecurity for all your employees. Educate the people on the most common security threats and how to recognize and oppose them. It should relate to the company’s security policies directly so that every person would understand the risks and responsibilities. You should also train the employees on using obligatory security means like password storage and VPN protocol.

Besides accessing the work resources, teach your personnel the best encryption for their resources – bank accounts, personal emails, securing the portable devices, laptops, and desktops. You have to know how to encrypt your Internet connection, and it is the same for every person in the company. One more crucial point is educating the people about the social network safety rules and sharing information there.

Unreliable third-party providers

The work environments rely on many third-party solutions. There are cloud storage, online documents, communication systems, etc. Should the hackers find any vulnerabilities in those solutions, they also get access to your internal data through those holes. Maybe, for the major providers, damages, both financial and reputational, would be more severe. However, it would hardly comfort you.

The most popular “weak link” is cloud storage. Now, when most businesses use cloud capacities, they have to predict related risks. Dealing with the wrong third-party service provider is the cause of numerous security breaches. The consequences can be disastrous.

Solution: choose the service providing partners with care!

When you choose the cloud storage or cloud-based system for your business, examine all the aspects in detail. The price should not be the decisive factor. First of all, you have to identify where they store your data and under what jurisdiction they operate. For instance, the USA-based cloud provider may store the data anywhere in the world, but it will obey US laws.

You need to have comprehensive information about how the cloud provider will keep and protect your data. Clarify the legal issues related to the possibility of accessing your data by other parties. It is only when you are aware of all details and legal grounds, you can make an educated decision.

Notice also that you have to secure all your network, and not the critical servers only.

The absence of the reaction strategy

There are many reasons why businesses miss this crucial aspect. Some organizations leave it all to their IT departments, which might lack the expertise. Others focus on breach prevention only. When the breach happens, they get lots and can’t react to the damage that has already happened.

One more problem is that most hackers’ attacks are hidden. The virus or spyware may be in your system, sitting silently and doing its job. If your strategy targets active attacks only to hit them back, you might not be ready for the threat that is in your system. The time to discover it grows constantly, as malicious software becomes more sophisticated. It might take several months before you reveal the problem and face the data loss.

Solution: develop a functional reaction strategy

Do not wait for the disaster to happen. Security breaches are inevitable, so, be ready for them right now. Test all your systems regularly for the hidden threats. Consider the methods of data checks and restoring. By all means, implement the backup strategies and protect your backups with encryption and passwords. Also, develop strategies for defining the damage and reducing it as much as possible.

Your architecture must be ready for incidents happening. Then, it must be able to handle them. Every employee has to know their area of responsibility and what to do in case of a data security breach revealed. Once you’ve established this architecture, you may count on quicker recovery.

Keeping the information about attacks concealed

We have already mentioned the reputational losses that businesses suffer because of data security breaches. Customers lose trust in those businesses and leave, thus making the damage worse. However, keeping this information under wraps may cause even more problems. When the customers or stakeholders learn about the breaches from the media, it demolishes their trust much more severely.

Solution: don’t keep the information secret

When the data security breach happens and you define the data damage, evaluate it. Then clarify how this problem affected your customers and stakeholders. Contact them and inform them about the breach, the damage, your actions aimed to fix it, and what the other parties should do (check their accesses, change passwords, etc.). Let them know how you are going to compensate them for this issue. In this case, it is much better to be proactive.

As a result, even with the current financial damage, you can keep your reputation and loyal customers. Credibility and trust are critical for any business. By being transparent and sincere, you can reduce the reputational damage significantly.

Conclusion

Whether you are a big business or a small team, a public person or not, you can be the victim of cybercriminals. Accidents caused by human factors are also frequent. It is one of the inevitable risks of today. The costs of data breaches increase every day and more and more sensitive data leaks from all kinds of companies. The truth is, no one magic strategy can protect your data 100%. However, it does not mean you should give up.

The modern data security industry offers many measures. When applied all together, they reduce the risk of data security breaches extremely. If you know the most common cyber attacks and avoid typical mistakes we’ve examined, your safety is rock solid.

The Web is everywhere, we depend on it. It means that you are at risk whenever you use it for work, for fun, for education, and any other reason. Don’t ignore the security measures. Be very careful with any messages you receive by email or in chats. Create separate strong passwords for all your accounts and use the password protection tools. Work with trusted service providers only. And never connect to the Web in public hotspots without a VPN protocol enabled.

These measures are simple but efficient. A good option to protect your data both during work and entertainment is VeePN – a powerful and multi-functional VPN solution. The free trial is available for download at the official website.

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