How to prevent a cybersecurity breach

In an increasingly digital world, businesses across the world continue to grapple with cybersecurity matters in an effort to protect valuable and sensitive data and safeguard their future prosperity. Malicious or accidental data breaches can have far-reaching consequences for any business, but fortunately there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your organisation. Let’s take a closer look at how to prevent a cybersecurity breach.

What is classified as a cybersecurity breach?

A cybersecurity breach occurs whenever sensitive and/or confidential data is accessed, transmitted, or stolen by an unauthorised party. Data breaches can typically be grouped into accidental leaks or malicious attacks. Understanding the ways that cybersecurity breaches can occur is an important part of preventing future incidents.

Accidental data leaks can occur when an authorised party within one organisation mistakenly shares classified information with a third party, or loses control of specific data altogether. For instance, emailing attachments to an unauthorised recipient, misplacing a USB or company laptop, or even leaving sensitive documents on a printing tray may all be examples of accidental data leaks.

Protecting sensitive information at rest by encrypting it is one of the controls that can reduce the risk of lost assets with sensitive information stored upon them. In many cases this can be enabled at the device or operating system level, ensuring that all sensitive data will be harder to extract.

On the other hand, malicious data leaks occur when a third party deliberately accesses confidential data with the intent of causing harm to specific individuals or organisations. For example, hackers who are external to a given organisation may use sophisticated phishing scams, ransomware, or other system attacks to forcibly gain control of sensitive data. Furthermore, malicious insiders who have authorised access to information may even intentionally share, sell, or otherwise distribute valuable data for nefarious purposes.

Organisations seeking controls for mitigating against malicious data leaks, should look to include managing the access, distribution and storage of sensitive data; as well as typical cybersecurity breach detection and management controls.

What can a cybersecurity breach mean for an organisation?

In Australia, cybercriminals have run up a tab worth billions of dollars. According to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, the total economic impact of cybercrime between 2020-21 totalled an estimated $33 billion. This includes money directly lost by victims, the cost of investigating cybercrime, and the ongoing expense involved in prevention measures.

The reality is that cybersecurity threats can have far-reaching impacts for any organisation. If your organisation experiences a cybersecurity breach, you may have to deal with the following types of consequences:

  1. Financial – e.g., a sudden dive in a company’s valuation or share price.
  2. Reputational – e.g., a loss of customer trust that may be very difficult to rebuild.
  3. Operational – e.g., unexpected downtime needed to address the cybersecurity breach.
  4. Data – e.g., the fallout associated with losing sensitive data or intellectual property.
  5. Legal – e.g., the legal and even regulatory effects involved in a data breach.

There are many real-world examples of widely recognised brands and organisations experiencing one or more consequences from the list above. As you can see, cybersecurity is an extremely serious matter and is something that everyone within an organisation should be mindful of day-to-day.

How can organisations prevent cybersecurity breaches?

The first step to identifying a cybersecurity breach, is to understand what sensitive and/or confidential information is collected, processed and stored by the organisation. Mapping the sensitive information across core business processes and ICT systems will enable the organisation to apply appropriate controls to monitor and manage sensitive information.  Controls should include enforcing the labelling of sensitive information; monitoring for known sensitive information types being accessed or exchanged by unauthorised mediums; and blocking use of sensitive information in contravention of organisational policies and procedures.

As more organisations transition to work from home arrangements, many will also experience increased instances of company data being unwittingly transferred to personal laptops and smartphones that may not meet minimum security standards. Having a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ policy that clearly lays out when and how employee-owned devices can be used for work-related activities is therefore a crucial part of maintaining strong cybersecurity.

The best way for organisations of every level to prevent data breaches is to educate staff to become cybersecurity aware. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recommends keeping clearly documented training plans for staff to ensure that every member of an organisation is aware of potential security risks.

Educating your staff about phishing and other forms of malicious attack can empower employees to be on the lookout for malicious actors. Organisations should encourage staff to go through the following process if they receive unexpected emails or electronic correspondence:

  • Never download attachments or click hyperlinks provided by unknown senders.
  • Be wary about entering system credentials or personal information into contact forms.
  • Check that the sender’s domain name is accurate. Be aware that hackers use sophisticated graphics and lookalike email accounts to mimic reputable brands and organisations.
  • Always err on the side of caution, and seek support from IT where required.
  • Don’t use the same passwords for work and personal purposes.

Of course, implementing system wide policies that safeguard your organisation’s digital environment is also vital. Recommendations from the Australian Cyber Security Centre include:

  • Encourage users to use an enterprise grade password manager, that enables the use of long and complex passwords, that are automatically generated within the application and do not require the user to remember the password.
  • Enforcing minimum password lengths and complexity to reduce the risk of brute force cyber-attacks.
  • Establishing two-factor authentication protocols to verify user credentials.
  • Implementing an automatic system lock-out following multiple failed login attempts.
  • Regularly updating organisational software and hardware to maintain enterprise-grade security.
  • Enabling anti-virus protections to safeguard the organisation’s digital environment.
  • Using enterprise-grade encryption to protect sensitive data.

Cybersecurity is a complex and multifaceted topic that requires every member of organisation to be educated and remain vigilant. If your business needs a tailored cybersecurity management plan, speak with the team at Business Aspect now. We can help you to identify and prevent data breaches before they occur so that your organisation remains protected and prosperous well into the future.