Data Breaches & How They Affect Your Business

Data breaches are more commonplace than you might think. Most organisations including large-scale corporations and SMEs (small to medium-sized businesses) believe they currently have adequate protection in place to prevent data breaches. But do they?

Data breaches can prove devastating. Malicious actors have a swiss army knife’s range of ways to attack an organisation and steal its most valuable data. And seeing as attacks are becoming evermore sophisticated and pressing, it’s vital any organisation holding any amount of sensitive data educates itself on what data breaches are and how they affect their business.

In this article, we’re going to cover this in detail. As an established London IT support company, we possess years of expertise that help businesses like yours protect themselves and prevent potentially devastating data breaches.

What is a data breach?

Let’s start by defining and explaining what a data breach is.

A data breach, simply, is a security incident whereby a malicious actor can navigate or break through security and gets a foothold enabling them to access private data. The fact is most companies today hold extremely valuable personally identifiable information (PII) on their employees, clients and customers. Names, birthdays, financial information, health information and much more is the kind of information these cybercriminals find so delectable because they can use this data for devastating means such as holding businesses up for massive ransoms (ransomware attacks) to get this information back into safe hands.

In essence, a data breach allows unauthorised access to the most crucial personal data that a business holds. This data is incredibly valuable, not only for reasons of ethics but also because in recent years local jurisdictions have been cracking down on enterprises that don’t secure the data they hold on private subjects.

How do data breaches happen?

A broad, simple yet poignant way to explain a data breach is to say that a data breach happens when someone gains access to a database they shouldn’t have access. This could be unauthorised access to a ledger of financial information or an employee’s email account.

Data breaches can be internal or external — most often the latter. But inside jobs have been known to happen. Externally, cybercriminals are finding increasingly sophisticated ways to infiltrate databases, and these malicious actors can often find the slightest crack in an organisation’s defence and breach the walls, wreaking havoc and causing a lot of expensive damage.

What are the consequences of a data breach?

The consequences of a data breach can range from minute to massive. In part, it depends on the type of data breach and the way the malicious actor gains access. A data breach through malicious code can have different outcomes as opposed to a data breach through direct access through a vulnerable network, for example.

Whatever the case, the goal of these malicious actors is usually the same: get hold of valuable sensitive data and use it for ill will. One of the most common uses of this data today is used in ransomware attacks. These types of attackers know that the private data they gain access to is crucial to the integrity of the business they’ve stolen it from, and they know they need it back to minimise damages. In turn, the attackers, with their claws on the valuable data, hold the organisation they’ve targeted for ransom, often asking for huge sums of money in return for the data they’ve taken possession of.

Organisations that don’t protect their employee’s, customers and clients’ data can be heavily penalised and fined under many current jurisdictions. This is a new area of law, and so far the crackdown has been hard. In the case of a ransomware attack or any other type of breach, the potential consequences for allowing a breach to occur can range from being held to ransom by malicious actors for hundreds of thousands if not millions, being fined a heavy number by local jurisdiction for failing to protect sensitive data and oftentimes irreparable damage to reputation.

How you can help mitigate and prevent data breaches.

Naturally, you want to know how best to help mitigate and prevent data breaches so you can avoid the very real effects they can have on your business. There are several things you can do right off the bat. But many businesses find it tremendously beneficial to get direct help and advice from IT professionals, helping them identify and plug current vulnerabilities and bolster their defences and plan future fortification that makes them virtually bulletproof.

You can start with the basics today. Make sure your networks, applications and operating systems are all up-to-date, including any current antimalware and firewall software. If you’re missing either of those, install them for an added layer of protection. Set up data encryption and 2FA (two-factor authentication) on all your employee’s devices to make it harder for anyone to crack open their accounts.

It’s well-known and backed by data, however, most data breaches are due to human error. In light of this, one of the most beneficial things any business can do is hire a professional IT company to raise employee awareness and train them in being able to identify and avoid potentially harmful emails, websites and other means that could impose a risk.

These practices combined can make for solid fortification and help you avoid the many pitfalls that can come from the increased risk of data breaches, protecting your clients, customers and your business.

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