Facing a Data Breach

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data breach

By: Chris Laboda, Manager, Maloney+Novotny

You’ve got malware: dealing with (and preventing) a data breach

We are undoubtedly living in an age of immense data. Our daily interactions have shifted online, business and personal, and leave behind a data trail wherever we go. The most common data left behind has the ability to compromise system security, confidentiality or integrity. If this information is obtained through an unlawful or unauthorized process it is often referred to as a “data breach”. Businesses must obtain a thorough understanding of how a breach can occur, the cost of a breach and how to prepare in order to ensure the overall information security framework addresses these issues.

What causes a data breach?

The most popular methods to gain entry into a business’s database include malware, brute force, SQL injection, social engineering and stolen credentials. Malware is one of the oldest and most successful ways to breach a system. It is designed to infiltrate, damage or obtain information from a computer system without the owner’s consent. Computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, adware and spyware are the most common malware. Brute force attacks the source of the data with as much persistence as possible and will try every permutation to get through the password control. SQL injection forms through a database-connected mechanism which invariably is connected to a web application. The structured query language (SQL) code is entered into a field on the webpage and directs to another URL. Social engineering is another type of data breach which has gained popularity with the increased use of social media accounts by employees and businesses. This method exploits the data points used by the social media platform in order to hack the account at the enterprise layer by spoofing and launching a social engineering attack. Stolen credentials has continued to increase through key logger theft, phishing and third party breaches. Credentials used over multiple platforms continue to create vulnerabilities as one account is compromised so too are those platforms linked to that account.

 Costs resulting from a data breach

The costs associated with a data breach fall into three areas; loss of business, loss of customers and legal costs. Loss of business usually takes the biggest hit as this translates into loss of revenues. The average cost per lost or stolen record currently is around $148 and the average one-year cost increase is 6.4%. Customer trust and loyalty will inevitably suffer in the event of a breach. It is impossible to put a dollar amount of each customer lost but the qualitative effect on the company’s reputation and loyalty will eat into profits. Legal costs can be monumental on a company following a breach. If a company does not have a cybersecurity insurance policy covering legal fees, the costs of hiring a firm to handle the breach add up quickly.

Reducing impact of a data breach

There are several elements that can be implemented to reduce the costs resulting from a data breach. An incident response team in place on average reduced the cost per lost or stolen record by $14, use of encryption reduced it by $13 and business continuity management reduced it by $9. In all, developing a proper information security framework addressing high-level information security, business continuity/ disaster recovery, information classification, acceptable use, end-user computing and access controls places the best foot forward for a business to prepare and address a data breach. For more information or to setup a security audit at your organization, please contact your Maloney + Novotny representative or use this online contact form.

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