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How are cyberattacks and data breaches different?

Even though the words cyberattack and data breach are used near synonymously, they mean quite different things. Simply put, a cyberattack is primarily about cybercriminals getting unauthorized access to a computer or a network with the intent to harm. This harm might come in many forms including data theft, damage to systems and data, damage to the organization’s reputation, or other significant harm to a business or person. These attacks can target anyone from individuals, groups, organizations (private and public), state departments, or governments. IT Support Vermont has an exhaustive database of known and evolving cyber threats targeting SMBs.

A data breach, on the other hand, is a subset of security incidents and involves data access without authorization. Data breaches can result in stolen data that can be released publicly or sold on the dark web to the highest bidder. If one was to follow the sequence of events, data breaches often follow a cyber-attack. The type of stolen information could include valuable proprietary data, personally identifiable information (PII) of employees or consumers, such as Social Security numbers, passwords, and financial account numbers that can be leveraged for further criminal activities like identity theft, data compromise and more.

What Really Happens During a Cyber Attack or Data Breach?

  • Hackers exploit the existing vulnerabilities

Hackers are always on the lookout for security vulnerabilities in the target organization’s network. They seek to exploit the vulnerabilities using a variety of methods including brute-forcing passwords, installing malware and spyware, phishing attacks, and others. The sad part is that despite having strong defenses in place, companies can sometimes fall victim to common human errors including carelessness with physical security or access to devices, poor password hygiene, accessing enterprise data from home networks with poor security and more. IT Outsourcing Vermont can help your organization with a thorough cyber security risk assessment.

  • Businesses fail to have a recovery plan in place

Without an effective recovery plan in place, businesses tend to panic in the immediate aftermath of an attack. While the consequences of compromised data security can be scary for any company, businesses often make wrong decisions in the heat of the moment such as trying to remove all evidence of the attack. The most important step you can take to ensure the future survival of your business is to actually do a thorough root cause analysis of the incident to actually understand how the breach happened in the first place. This will help you to not just shore up those specific vulnerabilities but also get a real assessment of the various dangers your network may be exposed to next time around and take measures to fix them. Moreover, having a cyberattack recovery plan in place can help organizations not panic during times of crisis, and simply refer to the plan for guidance on the immediate next steps including who to contact for specific requirements and detailed roles and responsibilities of all team members during emergencies.

What should I do to protect myself before a cyberattack or data breach?

  • Secure your information

The first step to securing your data is to keep your software updated. This includes everything from the current security software, web browsers, and operating system. Keeping everything updated with the latest versions and security patches ensures that all vulnerabilities that have been detected so far have already been addressed. This keeps you one step ahead of cybercriminals scoping your network for weaknesses. You should also ensure that you have backed up all mission-critical data and applications preferably multiple times and stored them off-site and in the cloud. Additionally, you should encrypt all data on official equipment including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. This ensures that even if your network gets breached or devices stolen, the malicious actors will never be able to leverage the valuable data without the decryption key. Last, but definitely not least, consider deploying multi-factor identification or two-factor authentication. This effectively blocks criminals from being able to access your network since they not only require the right credentials but also a second physical device registered to the user in order to be able to authenticate the login attempt.

  • Secure your wireless network

Routers are often a Data Breach Target. Ensuring the safety of your router is a basic step you can take to secure your business network. Routers with default passwords are prone to be hacked easily, thereby putting your entire network at risk. Always use a strong password for your routers.

  • Use encryption on your router

Routers generally come with different types of encryption such as WPA2 or WPA3 encryption. Using these strong forms of security helps you to protect all data shared over the network from prying eyes.

  • Use strong passwords

Good password hygiene should more or less become second nature to everyone working at your organization. This means using a reliable password manager that takes care of access management. At the very least, employees need to be trained to make their passwords strong and unique. This means creating one with at least 12 characters, including letters, numbers, and special symbols. Employees should also refrain from reusing passwords or making their passwords easy to guess.

  • Consider using a VPN – virtual private network

Using a VPN can help ensure the privacy of your traffic. A VPN guarantees anonymity by creating a private network for your use. Managed IT Services Vermont can help you choose the right VPN for your business.

  • Keep on top of an evolving list of cyber threats

We know it can be overwhelming to try and keep track of all of the common cyber-attacks, especially at a time when major breaches seem to be happening daily. But in order to protect your organization, it is a good idea to keep track of the latest threats and tools of defense. This can help you be more alert and more agile in your response to cyber threats.

Steve Loyer

With over 25 years of sales and service experience in network and network security solutions, Steve has earned technical and sales certificates from Microsoft, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Citrix, Sonicwall, Symantec, McAfee, Barracuda and American Power Conversion. Steve graduated from Vermont Technical College with a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technology.

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