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How to Prevent Data Breaches with Proven Techniques in 2024

Security teams face a complex landscape of challenges, including the growing threat of ransomware, escalating geopolitical tensions, and stricter compliance mandates. And now we have generative AI to contend with. According to a recent report, 91 percent of security teams admit they don’t fully comprehend the implications of generative AI. The report also highlights the growing trend of cyber extortion, which has become a more common threat than ransomware.

The current geopolitical climate has led to a significant increase in targeted attacks, observed by 86 percent of organizations, according to the above report. To make matters worse, the tightening regulatory environment and increasing personal liability are making cybersecurity a less appealing career path.

So, how can security teams address the myriad of challenges and effectively prevent data breaches in 2024? Below are some of the most notable tips to prevent data breaches, along with proven techniques to help security teams navigate around these complex challenges.

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1. Conduct Regular Security Awareness Training

This cannot be stated enough! Cybersecurity awareness training is a crucial step in reducing the risk of data breaches. According to a report by Keepnetlabs, organizations that provide this training experience a significant 70 percent reduction in security risks.

Training programs typically cover topics such as:

  • Phishing awareness and social engineering defense
  • Password and authentication security
  • Safe internet practices
  • Email security
  • Mobile device security
  • Data protection and privacy
  • Malware and ransomware

The training should also include hands-on exercises and real-world scenarios to engage employees and help them understand the importance of data protection. By emphasizing company policies and procedures, employees learn how to handle sensitive data responsibly, and keep them informed about data breach prevention. Additionally, the training program encourages employees to report suspicious activity to security teams, and provides guidance on safe handling of sensitive data when working remotely or traveling.

2. Establish a Tried and Tested Incident Response Plan

According to IBM, incident response planning is only gradually improving, with as much as 74 percent of organizations surveyed admitting that their plans are either inadequate, inconsistently applied, or non-existent. It is imperative that companies implement an Incident Response Plan (IRP) specifically for data breaches. This includes developing procedures for handling sensitive data through encryption, creating procedures for remote access, and continuously monitoring all user/network activity to prevent unauthorized access. They will need to regularly update these plans/procedures to reflect changes in technologies and threats.

3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication Whenever Possible

Implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) adds an additional layer of security, making it more challenging for attackers to gain unauthorized access to systems and compromising sensitive data. MFA reduces the risk of password compromise, and helps companies comply with regulatory requirements. It also enhances user experience by offering flexible authentication options, while protecting sensitive data and reducing the risk of insider threats. Furthermore, MFA helps protect against malware and phishing attacks, and provides increased visibility into user authentication, enabling better monitoring and detection of potential security threats.

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6. Safeguard Physical Data

To ensure the secure storage and protection of physical data, it is essential to implement a multi-layered approach. At a minimum, this will include using secure storage containers and screen locks to prevent unauthorized access. Access controls should be implemented to restrict access to physical data storage areas, such as locks, alarms, CCTV cameras, and ID badges. Furthermore, physical documents and media should be regularly shredded and destroyed through secure services. Finally, regular reviews and updates of physical data storage procedures are necessary to ensure compliance with regulations, as well as maintain the integrity of sensitive information.

7. Ensure All Security Software Is Up-To-Date

To maintain robust security, it is crucial to implement a proactive approach to vulnerability management and patching. This involves regularly updating and patching security software and operating systems to ensure the latest security fixes, as well as implementing a vulnerability management program. Automated patching and updating tools can streamline this process, increasing efficiency and reducing the risk of human error. Additionally, regular reviews and updates of security software are necessary to ensure compliance with evolving regulations. To facilitate this process, open-source tools such as Aqua Trivy, Metasploit, W3AF, OpenSCAP, and OpenVAS can automatically scan IT resources for vulnerabilities and provide a comprehensive view of potential security threats.

8. Encrypt Sensitive Data At Rest and In Transit

To ensure the secure storage and transmission of sensitive data, it is essential to implement robust encryption protocols and standards. There are a plethora of automatic encryption and decryption tools that can help to simplify the process. Additionally, regular reviews and updates of encryption procedures are necessary to ensure compliance with changing regulations. As mentioned, there are numerous open-source data encryption tools available, including LastPass, BitLocker, VeraCrypt, FileVault, AxCrypt, and HTTPS Everywhere.

9. Focus On Portable Device Security

In 2022, mobile devices were a significant vector for cyberattacks, with 9 percent of global attacks originating from poor mobile device security. In fact, Statista reported that over 2.2 million mobile cyberattacks were detected worldwide in December 2022 alone. To mitigate these threats, it is essential to implement robust mobile security measures, including the use of encryption, Mobile Device Management (MDM) and remote wiping software, setting up secure storage and access controls, and tools to securely destroy sensitive data. Additionally, companies must have a well-thought-out Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in place, to prevent breaches and ensure compliance with regulations.

- Digital Partner -

10. Monitor and Report On All User Activity

According to Stanford Research, employee mistakes are the primary cause of 88 percent of all data breaches. To mitigate this risk, organizations should implement user activity monitoring to detect and respond to potential security incidents. This can be achieved through the use of advanced event log auditing tools that track user activity and detect and alert on anomalies in real-time.

These monitoring tools also come with built-in data classification tools, as well as pre-defined compliance reports that can help companies satisfy the relevant compliance mandates. Many real-time auditing solutions can also detect and respond to events that match a predefined threshold condition. For example, if X number of events occur over Y period of time, a custom script can be executed to stop the attack in its tracks. This might include disabling a specific account or process, changing the firewall settings, or simply shutting down the affected server.

While it may not be feasible to eliminate the risk of data breaches entirely, by following these steps you can substantially reduce the likelihood of a breach occurring. Teaching your staff about the importance of handling sensitive data with utmost care, and keeping a close eye on all suspicious user, network, and device activity should be the most notable takeaways from this article. Not only is it a legal requirement to proactively prevent data breaches, but it also makes sound business sense, as the consequences of a breach can be financially devastating.

Aidan Simister

Aidan Simister is the CEO of Lepide, a provider of data security and compliance solutions. With over two decades of experience in the IT industry, he is recognized for his expertise in cybersecurity and his commitment to helping organizations safeguard their sensitive data.

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