Signs, Causes and Solutions for Network Data Breaches

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Network data attacks are on the rise. Combine the surge in remote working over the past 15 months and the fact human error accounts for almost a quarter (22%) of security breaches, and it’s no surprise that just under half (46%) of UK businesses suffered a breach in 2020.

Despite the warning signs, IT leaders are often guilty of being unprepared for network data breaches. Detection systems can become quickly outdated, and often breaches aren’t flagged until it’s too late. The consequences alone should serve as ample warning to IT leaders – the financial penalties are unforgiving, and customer trust is easy to lose and even more difficult to regain.

It’s critical, then, that organizations possess the ability to not only quickly identify when a breach is about to occur, but also how to respond when the inevitable occurs, allowing them to focus on working towards business goals and building customer confidence.

Nine Overlooked (Yet Extremely Common) Signs Your Network Has Been Breached

Often part and parcel of everyday business activity, it’s crucial that businesses don’t ignore these common, yet often neglected, indicators that a breach is about to, or already has, occurred:

  1. Unusual login activity
  2. Unusual file changes and database manipulation
  3. The appearance of suspicious or unknown files
  4. Locked accounts and changed user credentials
  5. Missing funds or assets, such as intellectual property or sensitive data
  6. Abnormal admin activity
  7. Reduced internet speed
  8. Unexpected loss in market share
  9. Reduced competitive advantage.

For companies whose security concerns are low down in the pecking order, it can take weeks or even months before a breach is discovered. Even more concerning, more often than not, these reticent organizations are so oblivious that news of a breach often comes from third parties, such as security researchers, cybersecurity journalists, law enforcement, or worse of all, a customer themselves.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Cause and effect. It’s a simple mantra, but by being able to identify the origin of a cyber-breach, businesses are already in an infinitely better position to defend themselves against breaches. We’ve already discussed how basic human error is the root cause of most breaches and, while it’s inevitable that mistakes happen, companies must foster a culture that educates its employees on spotting potential incidents themselves, rather than relying on overstretched and under-resourced security and IT teams. And, if someone misplaces a company device, establish that they should report it immediately so the data can be remotely wiped.

Companies must also strike a balance between granting employees’ freedom and autonomy with work devices, and policing activity to such an extent that employees become resentful and frustrated. Unapproved social media sites and email sharing from unknown sources are both signs that a company is likely to experience an attack, whether that’s in the form of malware, phishing, junk network traffic, or other fraudulent web apps. But, beware of becoming too ‘Big Brother’, it’s likely to cause more harm to employee morale in the long run.

Prevention is Only Part of the Cure

The best CIOs and security managers are those who accept inevitability. They accept that breaches will happen, it’s the nature of the security landscape, the nature of increasingly sophisticated cyber-criminals. Somehow, somewhere, and at some point, they will get in. But that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t implement as many preventative measures as possible. And it also doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have fail safes in place to quickly identify and react when an attack does occur.

Prevention is only one ingredient of a successful approach to tackling cybercrime and ensuring data protection. The most effective way to identify breaches early is to use tools that are constantly scanning the network for discrepancies, anomalies and suspicious behavior.

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