Hacking cases have grown a lot in recent years, haven’t they? Every other day there is news of some large corporation’s data being illegally accessed and exposed, an individual’s bank credentials being used by unauthorised hands, or government records getting published by an elite hacking group.
These are examples of data breaches. The threat is only going to rise with the exponential use of technology.
What’s the smart thing to do?
Understanding how data breaches work and how to protect yourself against them, of course!
In this article, we will explore what data breaches are, their different types, and how you can avoid becoming a data breach victim.
What is a data breach?
A data breach is unauthorised access to personal or professional information by an unapproved entity. This data is then sold illegally or used to leverage something for the benefit of the said entity. They may even leak it to the public just for fun.
You don’t want everyone to know your bank account number and those private emails, do you? Of course not. That leaves you wondering: Why is it possible in the first place?
Two words: technology and you. Data breaching is a phenomenon associated with technology and the digital world. Let’s see some factors in more detail.
Carelessness of the user: Leaving your Bluetooth and Hotspot on all the time is not going to help. If you want to connect to your earphones, toggle the Bluetooth on and off every single time. It’s not bothersome. When they are left on all the time, anyone has access to your phone personal network. The person with the right skills can move their fingers around on their connected device and extract data from you in a matter of a few seconds.
Lost and stolen devices: Cracking open a phone’s password screen doesn’t take long with the right skills. Data is prone to be misused by someone if your phone or computer gets stolen or lost somewhere. If you find a good Samaritan who reports the lost device, thank God and be happy. If not, you might be in for a ride with the cybercrime police.
Outdated devices and network: Device manufacturers roll out weekly and monthly updates that fix security loopholes in your device’s infrastructure. A device that is 5 years old may no longer be in support. You know what that means for cybercriminals, right? A fresh sheep roaming for slaughter. Network security is the same; you need to update your servers and network routinely.
Types of data breach
Individual data breach: This is associated with your personal information as an individual. Your PHI (Personal Health Information), which consists of past medical history, existing medical conditions, doctor services used, past and upcoming appointments, and your PII (Personal Identifiable Information), which includes name, phone number, address, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s licence, social security number, etc., are prone to data breaches. You can use Nuwber to see the public information already available on you if you are a US citizen.
Business data breach: As mentioned in the start, we hear of corporations getting hacked every other day. Private deals, customer records, consumer history, company accounts, emails, passwords, employee records, company software source code, and any other information related to the corporation’s machinery can be breached.
Government data breach: By 2020, the United States of America had become the greatest receiver of damages at the hands of data breaches, suffering an average total cost of $8.64 million in its history. This is just one of many statistics for different government data breaches.
Governments have the most elite technology and secured networks. That means they are also the targets of the top players in the hacking sphere looking for the greatest challenge in the market. Sometimes they play Robin Hood and perform service to the public (or that’s what they think) by releasing sealed government records.
Signs of data breach
Unusual network unavailability
The network’s gone. Why? As an individual, you may brush it off thinking it will return soon. As a fully functioning company, this is a huge concern. In either case, upon contacting your service provider you discover that everything is running well and it shouldn’t be dysfunctional. There are high chances that your network security has been compromised and that there is a network intruder preventing access to it. This is a great cause of concern for companies, but you can be prone to it with your private home networks too.
Inexplicable server downtime
Quite similar to the above example. But in this case, WIFI is up and the Internet is running smoothly. But the employees are being denied access to the company website and cloud. IT personnel says servers should be fine. Well, if the IT personnel is unskilled, that is what they will say. Skilled IT technicians will recognise the problem instantly. It can be any cyber-attack, data breaching being a probable possibility.
It can’t get any more apparent than this. You don’t know how, and you absolutely don’t know why, but private company records have been published in the local business journal. As an individual, maybe your personal information like financial information or photos have been uploaded to social media. RING-RING — it’s a data breach.
Simple steps to minimise the risk of data breach
1. Update device software and drivers
Security loopholes in old drivers make you susceptible to data breaches.
2. Set up a strong password combination
The more mix of special characters, letters (upper and smaller case), and numbers that your password has, the more difficult it is to perform a brute force attack on it.
3. Use VPN
VPNs are great add-ons for your web browser or company’s infrastructure for a variety of reasons, IP Address Masking being one of them.
While the focus of this article was to educate the reader more on data breaching, the simple steps provided at the end are very helpful in minimising the threat. Couple this with some more research and you won’t have to worry about data breaches.