You may not know everything about data security, but you probably recognize these names: Marriott, Equifax, Chase, and Yahoo. These are just a few of the companies that experienced major, attention-grabbing security breaches in the last few years.
But, despite the attention paid to these and other hacks, security breaches continue to be more problematic than ever before.
The recent 2019 Midyear QuickView Data Breach Report published by Risk Based Security highlights the issue. According to the report, the number of data breaches identified in the first half of 2019 is up a shocking 54 percent over the same period the previous year.
Not only are we seeing more breaches this year than last, the incidents themselves are larger, too. When looking at individual records exposed, the number is 52 percent compared to the first half of 2018, totaling 3.2 billion consumer records. But, of the 3,800 breaches reported in the first six months of 2019, 80 percent of the files compromised were traced to just eight individual hacks.
Despite the focus on data security, we’re seeing hackers get away with more and more each year. Why is this? Why is fraud such a problem, and what can we do change this picture?
Data Breaches Have Many Sources
Part of the problem is that there’s simply more data floating around than ever before. With more data available for criminals to steal, we’re going to see more fraud perpetrated.
According to cloud computing company Domo, we created about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day in 2018. And, as time passes, that number is only getting bigger.
We can chalk part of this up to the prominence of cloud computing. Although cloud services absolutely prioritize security, with more data flying back and forth between remote points, sheer probability dictates that there will be some exposure. There are more avenues through which bad actors can engage in illicit activity…and they’re always looking for opportunity.
Of course, the complexity of modern-day computer networks is another issue. With so much data transferred through so many modes of interconnection, there are plenty of vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. A missed update or security patch or even a bug in some software running in the background are prime opportunities for a potential data breach.
And, of course, there’s also the consumers themselves. Despite high-profile stories about online security and widespread anxiety about being hacked, consumers are not particularly skilled at keeping their data safe.
The matter is complicated, and most people don’t have the time or expertise to ensure their own data is secure. Criminals know and exploit it. Breaches fuel paranoia among consumers, but that fails to generate the actual behavioral change that can prevent them in the future.
Stopping Breaches Demands Aggressive Action
This begs the question: what practical steps can we take to mitigate the risk of data breaches?
Even if not directly responsible, businesses will carry the blame in the event of a security breach, putting them at the forefront of the conversation. Fortunately, businesses can mitigate risk in a few ways:
- Employee training: Provide regular training on best practices for security, including data storage and disposal, as well as keeping login credentials secure.
- Encrypting Data: Create a firm standard for data encryption in the organization. All data should be stored and transferred according to this procedure.
- Identifying Vulnerabilities: It’s vital to pick-out attacks as quickly as possible. Employing multiple security tools provides redundancy, ensuring greater coverage.
- Keeping Systems Up to Date: Always keep up with the latest versions of new patches, but only those that come directly from the technology’s manufacturer or designer.
- Monitoring Employees: Watch for suspicious activity within the workforce. It’s possible that hackers could either try to be hired or will work with existing employees to compromise systems from within.
Of course, even the best security can still be breached by skilled hackers. Consumers also need to take precautions. Once consumers find out about a breach that could impact their data, they should:
- Get the details: Learn whatever you can about the incident to determine whether your data might be impacted.
- Change passwords: You should use strong, unique passwords and update them regularly as a matter of course. It’s extra-important to do so after a breach, though.
- Monitor your credit: You’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major reporting bureaus each year. You should check these regularly to watch for strange activity.
- Use a personal security service: Companies like LifeLock offer identity theft protection designed to spot and report suspicious activity whenever it occurs.
Data security is a sensitive and complicated matter. Everyone wants to be protected against fraud, but no one wants to hear that their existing response is inadequate. Similarly, we tend to treat data breaches as an act of near-deliberate negligence; we vilify companies who experience a breach, point fingers and shout “this is your fault!”
Blaming doesn’t serve any purpose. Instead, we need to have a frank and open conversation about protecting consumers—and the companies with whom they do business—from security vulnerabilities. Until we do this, we’re only going to see the problem get worse.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is an entrepreneur and business leader with expertise in technology, e-Commerce, risk relativity and payment-processing solutions. She is COO of Chargebacks911 and CIO of its parent company Global Risk Technologies.
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