July 28, 2022

What Is a Security Data Breach?

By George Rouse

A security breach happens every few minutes. Managed service providers (MSPs) can help protect clients from the impact of a data breach by securing their systems and educating clients about how to recognize an attack.

Hackers are trying harder than ever to compromise your clients and gain access to sensitive customer information, or critical details about your client’s intellectual property that they can steal. A data breach sets your client up for liability. It can ruin their reputation and could put their business in jeopardy— a security breach can be expensive. The hardest part about a security breach is you and your client likely won’t know when it happens, but the effects can be devastating.

A security breach is when a bad actor gains illegal access to your client’s system. This can be one of your client’s employees. Or, it could be a hacker. A cybersecurity breach will often happen without your client’s knowledge. It could take weeks or months before they find out that a breach even occurred.

Types of security breaches

Not all cloud security breaches are the same. Disgruntled employees and hackers all have different motives. They may be working alone, or with others.

Here are just a few of the kinds of data breaches that can happen.

Ransomware. A hacker encrypts your client’s data and extorts them for money to regain access.

Phishing. A hacker gains access by getting employees to respond to deceptive emails.

Credential theft. A hacker or employee uses stolen credentials to gain access.

Physical theft. An employee or hacker steals a work device and uses the credentials to cause a breach.

Malware. A hacker uses computer worms or viruses to make the system provide access to them.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will prevent any and all security breaches, but there are best practices that can help mitigate the damage of a data breach.

Data breach phases

A data breach does not happen all at once. First, there is an evaluation phase. The bad actor determines how to compromise your client’s system. This may be a hacker probing defenses, or an employee finding ways to get access to passwords.

Once the data breach happens, no one may notice any difference. Unless this is a ransomware attack, operations will continue as normal. It may take up to a year to recognize a data breach and contain the effects.

When a data breach is discovered, it’s important to investigate how the data breach happened. Now is the time to alert customers, investors and the media. This is also the time to determine how to adjust and strengthen your client’s security strategy and account for losses.

The effects of data breaches

With corporate data breaches, bad actors most often steal data and sell it to the darknet. When an employee or hacker sells the passwords to the darknet, it exposes personal information to more bad actors. If the bad actor gets access to sensitive and personal information, such as social security numbers and credit cards, they might use that information for financial fraud.

In the event of ransomware, a hacker can encrypt critical files and hold them hostage until the extortioners’ fee is paid. Ransomware attacks can be costly.

Other tactics like phishing and credential theft rely on poor employee security practices like weak passwords to gain access. And in some cases, hackers exploit system vulnerabilities using malware.

How do you mitigate a security breach?

You’re not entirely powerless in protecting your clients. Here are some of the best ways to protect client data and prevent security breaches.

Implement a multi-layered security approach. This can mean the difference between a headache and disaster.

Update your client’s operating systems and applications as soon as patches come out. Patch management can fix known vulnerabilities. The longer a system goes without an update, the more time a hacker has to compromise it.

Don’t store passwords in plain text. You should store all passwords in an encrypted format that only the account user has access to. And, keep all sensitive information under industry-grade encryption.

Strong passwords are a must. Use a password generator to create passwords that hackers can’t guess with a brute-force attack. Use two-factor authentication to make it impossible for an employee to steal another employee’s credentials.

Most importantly, run regular backups. Don’t just rely on a provider-based (Microsoft, Google) cloud backup service. Make backups to physical drives with an air gap—in other words, drives that aren’t connected to the network. Backups are the most effective strategy for mitigating the damage of a security breach after the fact. For example, you can avoid paying the extortion fee of a ransomware attack if you already have the data backed up in another location.

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