Data breaches have recently gained the attention of many companies. However, it’s not only rogue hackers that companies should be worried about; there are very many crucial information and systems can be compromised.
Below are some of the most common ways in which an organisation’s information and systems can be breached and some examples of how it actually occurs.
Employees are the best target for data breaches. Your company can be easily hacked and crucial information leaked with just a single click of a button.
Breaches often occur because of failing to follow data safety procedures set in the company. For instance, an employee can send bulk emails by listing recipients using the Cc field instead of the Bcc field.
When this happens, everyone who received the email will be able to see the email address of everyone else who got the same email. It goes without saying that exposing the email addresses of clients or even people who signed up for your newsletter is tragic. It gets even worse if the email addresses reveal certain sensitive details about the recipients such as their political affiliation or medical status.
Hackers can target companies in many ways. However, these methods of penetration are divided into three main categories.
First, they can make use of exploits to get crucial data or information. Also attacks such as brute force password hacks. This is where the hackers take advantage of a login page and millions of username-password combination to get the right credential to gain access into the company’s system. Unless all accounts have strong passwords, the brute force hack can get the right credential within a matter of minutes.
Second, hackers can make use of malware to cause disruptions in the business or collect sensitive information.
There are different types of malware, each created for a unique purpose. Some work in the background, gathering information about a user’s browsing habits, or even taking advantage of the computer’s processing power to perform certain tasks for the hacker.
Other types of malware like ransomware, adware, and viruses, are more explicit, meaning they can corrupt systems and delete files.
Third, hackers can use social engineering to gain access to your company’s systems. This method is completely different from the two mentioned above and so it needs its own discussion.
Social engineering is hacking method that involves criminals pretending to be legitimate people or companies. Depending on the type of attack, the hacker can try to trick the use to:
- Give them access to a restricted area (this can either be physical access to the company’s premises or login details);
- Download a malicious attachment; or
- Hand over crucial data and information.
The most common social engineering hack today is phishing. Phishing uses mails that are allegedly sent by legitimate persons and companies that contain urgent requests, mostly highlighting a problem in the company’s operations or suggesting a breach of the system.
Although most phishing cases involve fake emails, phishing can also use text messages and other communications on social media platforms.
As we have highlighted earlier in this article, employees are huge security vulnerability in your organisation and you should seek a data protection agency to guide you. Employees often make innocent mistakes that assist hackers to gain access to sensitive information. Sometime, even the employees can be in on it. Malicious employees share the same motivations with rogue hackers:
- Financial Gain: An employee may be in desperate need of finances and can proceed to sell crucial information belonging to the company on the dark web.
- Revenge: Employees who are wrongly terminated or dissatisfied with their work environment can hit back by sabotaging the company.
Not all data breaches involve data stored on computers and servers. Companies should also be wary about physical theft of paper records and gadgets that contain sensitive information.
Wrong disposal of paper records can easily lead to a data breach of company information. Throwing away sensitive documents without shredding them is a recipe for disaster as criminals can easily catch on to this.
In addition, documents not shredded can easily find their way to landfills where the wrong people can still get to them.
Companies also need to exercise caution when disposing of gadgets like USB sticks and computer hard drives. These gadgets should be completely wiped before being disposed of so that dumpster divers and fraudsters do not stumble on crucial company data by chance.