Why should you care about data breaches and why are they a potential threat?
A data breach is a security incident where information is accessed without authorization. Other terms for this are data spill, unintentional information disclosure, data leak, and information leakage. Data breaches can harm businesses and consumers in many ways. As technology progresses, more information is spread throughout the digital world, making cyberattacks increasingly common and costly. The average total cost to a company from a data breach globally is $3.86 million according to a study by the Ponemon Institute. This means that the average cost per stolen record is $148, which makes online crime a threat to anyone on the internet.
Personally identifiable information, such as full names, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers, was the most common form of data breaches in 2016 according to Symantec. Corporations are likely to be targeted for cyberattacks due to the vast amount of data that can be collected.
Why do data breaches happen?
Cybercrime is a profitable industry that continues to grow. Hackers look for personally identifiable information to steal money, compromise identities, or sell over the dark web.
Data breaches can occur in four ways. Firstly, out-of-date software can make it easier to exploit systems and sneak malware onto a computer and steal data. Weak passwords make it easier for hackers to guess, which is why experts recommend unique and complex passwords. Another way a data breach can happen is through drive-by downloads, which is when you unintentionally download a virus or malware by visiting a compromised web page. A drive-by download is more likely to occur with a browser, application, or operating system that is out of date or has a security flaw. Lastly, targeted malware attacks are another form of a data breach. Attackers use spam and phishing email tactics to try to trick the user into revealing user credentials, downloading malware attachments, or directing users to vulnerable websites. Email is a common way for malware to transfer to your computer.
What are some ways you can protect yourself?
- Have strong and secure passwords.
- Monitor your credit report regularly to check if a thief has tried to open a new credit card or another account under your name.
- Act at once if you see suspicious activity.
- Secure your phone so that a criminal will not be able to access your device in a situation that it be lost or stolen.
- Use only secure URLs. Reputable sites start with https://.
- Install high-quality security software that includes malware and virus protection and always keep it updated.