Data loss is one of the biggest threats businesses face. 94% of companies that experience significant data loss do not recover. This is mainly because businesses without backup or a disaster recovery plan take up to 280 days to recover from a data breach.
Sometimes, some businesses are unaware they suffered a data loss, and in some cases, it takes up to nine months to identify the breach. By then, it’s too late to recover, and the company faces the risk of extinction. This effect of data loss makes it imperative for organizations to know the data vulnerabilities and threats they are likely to meet and develop a system to mitigate them.
This blog covers the data vulnerabilities and threats that can cause data loss and how to mitigate them. But first, what does data vulnerability mean?
Understanding Data Vulnerability and Potential Risks
Data vulnerability is any weakness or opportunity in an IT system that hackers and other cybercriminals can exploit to access a company’s computer system and database. Vulnerabilities weaken your company’s system, leaving it open to malicious attacks that affect its value, reputation, business operations, and continuity.
Data vulnerability differs from threats and exploits. A vulnerability is a weakness in software, hardware, or procedures. On the other hand, a threat is a potentially dangerous event that is yet to occur but can cause significant damage if it does.
Exploits refer to how threats become attacks. Vulnerabilities have different types, including network, operating system, process, and human vulnerabilities. Each of these vulnerabilities manifests differently and must be checked on time to keep them from becoming threats.
What Data Vulnerability Do Businesses Face?
This refers to an uncontrolled accumulation of secrets that can result in loss of control over the company data and breaches. Secret sprawl results from
- The creation of too many secrets
- Inadequate classification and protection controls
- Lack of awareness and training
- Poorly managed process
- Insufficient personnel security controls
You can prevent secret sprawl by implementing a comprehensive security program. Also, ensure that employees know the importance of data protection and receive adequate training.
Server-Side Request Forgery
This vulnerability allows an attacker to inject requests into a vulnerable system from the perspective of the web application’s server. This will enable them to bypass the system’s firewalls and security, read files, and execute commands on the server. The attackers also gain access to the company’s sensitive data.
You can prevent server-side request forgery by ensuring that web applications are configured only to grant access to the resources they need to function. Also, use input validation to check that all user input is safe before processing.
This refers to granting employees excessive access to sensitive data or systems, increasing the risk of the data being stolen or compromised. You can prevent this by ensuring that only those who need access to systems or sensitive data to get their job done get them. Also, use role-based access control to restrict access to specific folders or data sets.
Code and Command Injections
A code injection involves intentionally introducing malicious code into a legitimate computer app. The code could gain control of the system, damage it, or destroy the data. On the other hand, a command injection occurs when an attacker inputs a command into an input field on a web page or the text area for clients.
To prevent code and command injections, do the following:
- Check for malicious code using input validation
- Combine firewalls with other security measures to keep out attackers
- Invest in commercial security software that detects and prevents code and command injections
- Ensure all your system software is up to date, and do away with redundant ones
- Teach your employees how to identify and report malicious codes or suspicious activities
This refers to a situation where your system software cannot identify the data it is meant to protect, creating problems like data deletion or database corruption. To prevent identification failures, ensure your software is configured correctly and the settings are accurate. Also, the software should be up-to-date.
What Potential Risks Do Businesses Face?
Small businesses have the most to lose when there’s a data breach or loss of data. 43% of all cyberattacks target small businesses. Also, Businesses with less than 500 employees will likely lose, on average, £1.957 million per attack.
Losing such an amount is detrimental to the company’s finances, which is why 60% of small businesses stop operating within six months after a data breach. Therefore, just like data vulnerabilities, you must know the potential threats businesses face to help you prepare for them ahead of time.
Below are the five most common potential risks leading to data loss.
This is one of the most damning threats faced by small businesses. A phishing attack involves an attacker pretending to be a trusted contact. The attacker entices their target to click a malicious link, download a file, or grant them access to sensitive information like access codes.
Phishing attacks have evolved in recent years, accounting for 90% of all breaches companies face. One of the ways attackers attack businesses is through their emails. They steal the passwords of high business executives and use them to ask employees for sensitive data.
Also, phishing attackers use social engineering to target people with business instead of technological vulnerabilities. However, you can use technology to protect your business from phishing attacks. One way to do this is by using a solid email security gateway and multi-factor authentication (MFA).
MFAs give your emails an extra security layer. The additional security could be a biometric check like a fingerprint or FaceID scan, a scan notification from a registered device, or an SMS code. With multi-factor authentication, even if the attacker bypasses your email security gateway, they cannot access your email account without the additional information.
You can further protect against phishing attacks by conducting security awareness training for your staff. During the training, your employees learn how to identify and report phishing attacks.
The second biggest threat faced by small businesses is malware attacks. 94% of small businesses receive malware through email. Malware attacks include viruses and trojans, and attackers use them to gain access to a company’s network to destroy or steal their data.
A company’s system can get malware from spam emails, malicious website downloads, or a connection to an infected device. Once malware gets into a business system, it can affect it or give the attacker access to sensitive data that puts employees, vendors, and customer data at risk. This is more so if the employees use their devices to work without adequate security.
So, the first step to preventing malware attacks is to ask employees not to access the business’s data with personal devices. Also, take advantage of Endpoint Protection solutions and improve your web security.
Ransomware is another widespread cyberattack that has been around since the late 1980s. The first ransomware attack ever documented was in 1989. It was the AIDS trojan (PC Cyborg Virus) released through a floppy disk.
Since then, cybercriminals have grown bolder, targeting thousands of businesses yearly. The average ransomware victim loses 35% of their data, with only 8% recovering their data after paying a ransom. Ransomware involves an attacker encrypting a company’s data, keeping the employees from accessing it until they pay a ransom.
The ransoms are significant sums that can cripple a company’s finances. If the company pays, they get their data back, but if they refuse, they lose their data, which can impact their operations. Small businesses are most at risk of ransomware attacks and often face an average ransom demand of $116,000.
Small business owners are often left with no choice but to pay the ransom because they do not have a backup of their data and must resume operations as soon as possible. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, so take proactive steps to prevent ransomware attacks. Start by having Endpoint Protection for all business devices; it makes it hard for attackers to encrypt your data effectively.
The second option is an effective cloud backup and data recovery solution. With cloud backup, a replica of your data is saved in the cloud, and you can recover it in the event of ransomware. The benefit of backing up data and having a recovery plan is that you can quickly recover your data and keep your business running if you suffer a ransomware attack.
Employees using weak passwords is another threat to business data that results in data loss. Small businesses use several cloud-based services that contain sensitive data and financial information and require different passwords. Data gets compromised if the passwords are easy to know, like words in the dictionary, birthdays, or anniversaries, and are used for multiple accounts.
Combating the threat of weak passwords is easy. Encourage employees, especially IT team members, to use strong passwords containing small and capital letters of the alphabet, numbers, and symbols. Also, take advantage of Business Password Management technologies; they suggest strong passwords that are not easily cracked.
Unlike the other risks discussed above that attackers cause, insider threat is a risk caused by employees, former employees, business contractors, or associates. If any of these people get greedy or hold a grudge against the company, they can cause a data breach by carelessness, ignorance, or collaborating with an attacker.
Misuse of assets, disrupting business for personal gain, and failing to follow cyber security practices are some ways insider threats manifest. According to a Verizon report, 57% of database breaches involve insider threats. Also, 20% of cybersecurity incidents and 15% of data breaches happen because of misuse of privileges.
To prevent insider threats, ensure employees only have access to the data they need to perform their job duties. The more employees can access multiple accounts they don’t need, the greater the insider threat risk.
Also, create a strong culture of security awareness within your organization. A strong security awareness culture reduces the insider threat caused by ignorance and helps employees spot when company data has been compromised or is about to get compromised.
How to Prevent Data Loss?
The following are ways to prevent data loss and ensure your business keeps running after a data breach:
While protecting your software, you must also care for your hardware. You can safeguard your computer systems by:
- Installing circuit breakers to protect them if there’s a power surge
- Installing anti-theft equipment, especially one with an alarm to alert you if your computers are moved
- Installing a webcam to take pictures of anyone trying to access the files illegally
- Ensuring that your servers are in a safe and secure environment if you use self-hosting
Keep Computers Clean
Although it is highly overlooked, a clean work environment, especially around computers, is vital to protecting data. Food and drinks can damage electronic devices and company data, so have a no food, no drink policy around computers.
Aside from food and beverages, you can keep computers clean by uninstalling unnecessary apps and programs. Also, use a disk cleanup tool to remove temporary and non-useful monster files.
Encrypt Sensitive Data
Before transmitting data, ensure they are encrypted. Use a robot, enterprise-grade encryption like the 256-bit-key Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Encryption stops hackers from stealing data and keeps unauthorized persons away.
Backup Data and Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
Backing up data and setting up a disaster recovery plan is one of the most effective ways to protect your data and prevent data loss. Ensure you backup sensitive and critical data and regularly test your disaster recovery plan to ensure it will work when needed. There are different options for backing up data, so use the one that best meets your needs.
Data vulnerabilities and risks are mitigable if you take steps to prevent them. You don’t have to wait until you suffer a breach to take action. Protecting your data starts now, and in addition to what was discussed in this blog, invest in comprehensive security tools and train your employees on security awareness.