Why is data protection a matter of urgency today? Internet users generate about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day; by 2020, there will be around 40 trillion gigabytes of data (40 zettabytes) out there. A large portion of it contains sensitive information that can be used for malicious activity.
Digital data is a treasure trove and a digital currency for hackers who know how to use sensitive data to their advantage.
How It Can Affect Businesses And Individual Users
Data Breach: Risk For Businesses
For modern business models, which are extremely dependent on the Internet and new technologies when storing sensitive information, a successful cyber attack means disruption of many operational aspects. The impact of a breach on a particular company is unique but generally results in financial losses, reputational damage, customer trust crisis, and more. Let’s look into each in more detail.
This is a straightforward and unavoidable consequence of any data breach. However, not all data breaches are equal. The company’s niche, type of compromised information, the number of affected individuals – all this contributes to the total cost.
It is reported that a data breach costs companies around $4 million averagely. Massive data breaches can be even estimated in billions of dollars! The cost of attack for small and medium-sized companies amounts to thousands of dollars, but this loss alone can be enough to cause them to permanently close operations.
Damage of reputation and brand devaluation as a result of cyberattack bear a long-term effect. Even if your business recovers financially, the reputation will take more time to heal. One data breach can immediately tarnish the brand’s reputation which you have been earning for years. Usually, ill fame leads to declining stock prices of the company, loss of customer loyalty and trust, loss of investors’ and suppliers’ interest in your company.
Consumer Trust Crisis
Weakened customer trust can be extremely harmful for business. Customers value their data privacy. So, the leakage of their personal information that may include credit card details, social security numbers, etc. erode the trust of existing customers. What’s more, this prevents potential consumers from dealing with the organization. It leads to customer loss, sales loss, and profit reduction.
Hackers frequently hunt for business trade secrets, marketing strategies, customer lists, sales forecasts, blueprints, and other intellectual property which is of big value when sold to industry competitors. Losing this crucial data impacts competitiveness of your company. Be sure some of your rivals wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of this information.
Data breach: Risk For Individuals
For individual users who have several dozens of accounts with each of them containing personal data, a cyber attack will be no less damaging than for businesses. Under the worst-case scenario, the effects can extend beyond just inconvenience, they can lead to different types of fraud.
- Credit card fraud occurs when an unauthorized user steals your credit card credentials and performs money transactions which the owner of the card isn’t aware of. The digital thieves can get credit card details, PIN, and security code that enable them to conduct fraudulent activities without having the card physically.
- Identity theft has more severe effects as a cybercriminal gains access to personal information like bank account numbers, phone, passwords, social security numbers, medical insurance numbers and uses it for financial gains.
There are 10+ of other types of frauds and ways cybercriminals can utilize personal information for their benefit.
What Are The Most Efficient Ways To Protect Data?
Data Protection: Measures Taken by Businesses
Businesses should strengthen their security strategies and focus on mitigation of the threats caused by ransomware, phishing, SQL injection, malware, DDoS, brute-force attacks, and unpatched security vulnerabilities. These are proved to be the most successful and efficient forms of cyber attacks in terms of damage size. What are the necessary security measures for businesses though? There are quite a few.
It is designed to protect data by scrambling it and making it unreadable with the help of mathematical algorithms. Only the user with a secret key or passcode can decrypt it. This ensures that hackers won’t be able to decrypt the information even if it is compromised. The encryption is applied to data at different levels and layers of the system – full disk, database, file and folders, file system, virtual disk, and others.
To ensure secure data transmission you should utilize the virtual private network, protected Wi-Fi access, secure shell and the like. It’s important to stay up to date with the latest encryption technologies because they become obsolete and inefficient in the course of time.
Role-based Access Control
Simply put, you restrict network access based on the roles of individuals within a company. Users have access to the information they need to complete their daily tasks, but they can’t access sensitive data if it doesn’t pertain to them. The access roles can be assigned in accordance with responsibility, competence, and authority.
The restricted access to sensitive information means reduced risks of data leakage or data breach. There are alternatives to this technology like Access Control List that defines access to a document, and Attribute-based Access Control that grants access based on department, location, time of day, etc.
Password Management Technology
This is the best practice for generating and storing all your passwords in an encrypted form. The password managers vary from basic to more advanced with features like:
- automatic forms filling;
- automated password change;
- synchronization across all platforms (Windows, Mac, IOS, Android);
- managing passwords for apps;
- protected browser when a financial transaction is performing.
When it comes to more advanced and unique solutions, there are password storage and management tools like CIPHRA. Besides standard cryptographic algorithms, it utilizes unclonable keys derived from digital fingerprint. The main advantage of this hardware-based technology is that neither secret keys nor root keys are physically stored anywhere in the memory.
Decentralized Data Storage
Blockchain is a powerful technology that makes storage of any digital information or currency tamper-proof and resilient to cyber attacks. Due to decentralization, there is no single point of failure or penetration for hackers. Instead, the data is distributed across multiple computers or nodes that manage the network.
Blockchain acts as a shared though encrypted ledger and ensures that the information stays current across all the computers upon each update. This concept maintains data transparency. Therefore, every single transaction can be traced and verified.
Cybersecurity Training For Employees
It is crucial to build a strong security culture within a company since the majority of cyber attacks aim to exploit the human factor. Even the most efficient security measures will fail if an employee is unaware of the potential threats and how to avoid them. The best cybersecurity practices are simple and not time-consuming. Following an all-encompassing training plan will enhance the company’s security.
Data Protection: Measures Taken By Individual Users
As for users, they should be watchful of malware, phishing attacks, network spoofing, botnets and fake apps which pose the main threat to data security. Exploiting human vulnerabilities is the most popular way of hacking individual accounts. The best practices to protect oneself are as follows:
- Secure access. The fundamental rule to protect oneself in the digital environment is to create a long and strong password for each of the accounts. This will significantly complicate the process of password cracking. Even if one of the accounts is hacked, bad actors won’t be able to get access to the other accounts. Setting up two-factor authentication has become a standard practice and an additional layer of protection for an account. The user should also avoid connecting to unknown public Wi-Fi as one of the biggest threats among others is a man-in-the-middle attack.
- Updated software. The user is a significant security risk if they don’t update software regularly. This opens vulnerabilities for hackers to use.
- Data backups. Hardware can fail, data can be compromised, devices can be stolen or lost. The user can reinstall operating systems, applications but it’s impossible to recover the lost data. With the help of data backup tools, individuals are able to protect and restore their data if something goes wrong.
There are never too many preventive measures when it comes to the security of sensitive data. Given that the average cost of a data breach increases with each passing year, both individuals and businesses will benefit if they apply the best protection solutions and pursue the fundamental rules. Be it personal data like credit card numbers or the company’s trade secrets, the information must always be protected from unauthorized users.
More on this topic: Four Layers of AWS Security