Companies have a responsibility to safeguard the data provided by their customers. When these are compromised through a data breach, it can be significantly costly on their part, and their reputation can rapidly go down the drain. What’s worse is that their customers will become vulnerable to identity theft and other nasty cybercrimes.
But what exactly is a data breach, how does it happen, and where does the stolen information go? Let’s dive deeper into this matter.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach is an accident where information is forcefully taken or stolen physically or virtually from a system without the authorization or knowledge of its owner. The stolen data may contain confidential, sensitive, or proprietary information such as customer data, credit card numbers, and trade secrets.
Cybercriminals can dump this data into deep web forums. In some cases, they sell it to other parties for whatever purpose they intend to use it for. There are also instances where cybercriminals use the stolen data to do more serious crimes such as identity theft.
Luckily, there are ways to minimize, if not prevent, the occurrence of a data breach: using a proxy provider (like this one), teaching employees about proper security measures, and even hiring an in-house IT team, to name a few.
Still, hackers will always try to find loopholes in a security system. Statistics revealed that 25% of data breach accidents are attributed to malware attacks or hacking. Other methods commonly used are as follows:
● Unintended Disclosure – this happens when sensitive data is exposed due to mistakes or negligence.
● Insider Leak – whena person of authority or trusted individuals with access to sensitive data steals it.
● Payment Card Fraud – this method uses physical skimming devices to steal payment card data.
● Loss or Theft – this data breach occurs when devices such as computers, laptops, or personal drives are lost or stolen.
Shocking Data Breach Accidents
Here are some of the most shocking and embarrassing data breaches in history:
In 2017, Equifax became a victim of a massive data breach attack. The breach lasted for over 78 days before it was discovered. As a result, the personal data of over 15 million Brits, 19.000 Canadians, and 148 million Americans were compromised. In addition, the company incurred over $1.7 billion in cost as a result of the incident.
eBay is among the largest online marketplace in the world. However, in 2014, the company disclosed that it became a victim of a data breach attack. The incident affected over 145 million active users of the platform.
According to eBay, the source of the attack can be traced to several compromised employee login credentials. Some of the data stolen include customers’ names, emails, birthdays, phone numbers, and physical addresses, which can be used for identity theft.
Marriott International suffered a huge data breach in its reservation database in 2018. They reported that over 385 million customers were affected by the incident. The compromised data included names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, emails, passport numbers, date of birth, gender, reservation dates, and arrival & departure information.
The company received damages of over $71 million. However, this amount was reimbursed by insurance. But they are still probably going to pay $123 million worth of fines in the UK for failure to comply with their data protection act.
In 2015, Ashley Madison, a Canadian online dating and social networking service suffered a catastrophic data breach attack launched by a group named “The Impact Team.”
As a result, many customer’s extramarital affairs and sexual fantasies were exposed online. One of the most prominent individuals involved in the scandal was Josh Duggar. He is the eldest son of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, featured in TLC’s reality show “19 Kids and Counting”.
Tips on How to Avoid Data Breaches Accidents
Here are some tips for enterprises on how to avoid data breaches:
● Hire a Team of IT Experts – hiring a team of expert IT personnel might be expensive. However, experiencing a data breach can be even more costly.
● Educate Your Employees – minimize the risk of data breach by educating your employees on protecting the company’s sensitive data.
● Use Security Measures – invest in a reliable proxy provider and security software. Also, conduct regular security audits to ensure that all of your company’s data is safe. Proxy services don’t have to break your budget – you can find reliable yet low-cost providers.
As an employee, there are also several things that you can do to prevent a data breach. This includes the following:
● Be Mindful With What You Share – avoid allowing cybercriminals to know about your personal life by sharing less on your social media profile.
● Secure All Your Devices – keep your data safe on your devices by installing security software and using two-factor authentication. It’s also a good idea to use services that allow you to secure your IP address.
● Be Skeptical and Vigilant – phishing is a common method used by cybercriminals to steal data. This is why it’s important to be vigilant when clicking URLs and opening your emails.
In current circumstances, protecting your data is more important than ever. Being a victim of a data breach is a serious matter that may cause you many inconveniences, and sometimes, it may even result in financial loss.
As much as possible, make sure to be careful with the information you share with other parties. Protect it by using a proxy provider, firewall, and anti-virus and malware software. At the same time, you should demand companies have accountability for handling your personal data.
Donald Korinchak is a Cybersecurity Professional in the Washington DC area. Donald holds an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business. Donald is considered a thought leader in business, leadership, and cybersecurity issues.