Many of us hear the term “data breach” tossed around on an almost weekly (if not daily) basis. This makes sense due to the massive amount of information we seem determined to share with the internet at an ever increasing cadence. With more “life” taking place online than ever before, criminals have discovered sophisticated ways to exploit our digital activities for their gain.
One of the most lucrative cybercrimes to date is the data breach. Breaches are usually designed to siphon large amounts of personal information, or very targeted, specific, and highly-valuable information (think state secrets). The volume and nature of the information varies, but any information gained through nefarious means is likely to be used for nefarious purposes.
While we may not be able to stop every data breach every time, we can become educated on ways to protect ourselves and our data in the event of an attack.
A data breach occurs any time that unauthorized parties manage to gain access to sensitive, private information. This doesn’t always have to be electronic, although cyber hacking is the prevalent form of attack. Stealing hard copies of sensitive company information is considered a data breach akin to a hacker stealing digital data.
Access can come in the form of hacking into organizational systems, accidental shares by employees, gaining unauthorized access using employee credentials, or any activity that exposes an unauthorized party to the protected data.
There are several methods by which bad actors can gain access to sensitive data, including:
Malware: This is a type of “malicious software” that can be downloaded into systems to collect data, or weaken the system to allow for unauthorized access. Certain types of malware may continue to gather data and pass it back to cybercriminals without disrupting the operating flow of the system it is attacking. This is especially dangerous, as it can go unnoticed for long periods of time and introduces brand new data regularly.
Phishing: This method involves finding a way to “trick” employees or others into sharing sensitive information that will give hackers the data they need to gain access to personal or professional accounts. Phishing emails may be sent using spoofing techniques to appear as if they are being sent from a legitimate or familiar source, or people may be targeted via live phone calls that use trickery or fear to try and bully others into sharing data. Any time that a bad actor uses deception to fool others into sharing sensitive data, it is likely a phishing attack.
Physical Theft of Devices: Many people keep all of their passwords and access codes on their mobile devices or laptops. It’s relatively easy for a hacker to steal these devices and then find ways to gain entry into their operating systems. From here, they will have open access to every account - from financial to e-commerce.
Trial and Error: Hackers sometimes use data they’ve stolen or collected from one place to gain access to other accounts. They do this by combining usernames with known passwords until something works, usually with the help of faster moving programs. There are also a variety of software programs that can decode passwords and speed up the process of breaking into sensitive accounts.
While not all data breaches are intentional (think of allowing a co-worker or family member to access your computer or phone for an innocent reason), the unauthorized recording and improper use of the data collected is. When a cybercriminal chooses to exploit data they’ve accessed for personal gain or malicious intent, the impact can vary widely depending on the information they’ve gained access to.
The types of data that hackers may want include (but are likely not limited to):
In reality, hackers will take advantage of any data that they can gain access to, whether it’s to gain direct access to bank accounts, or to sell to unethical marketing agencies to turn a profit.
The method by which data breaches are discovered can have a significant impact on how organizations that have been targeted respond. While the hope is that any breaches are immediately detected by companies themselves via internal auditing, this is far from the norm.
The most common ways that data breaches are discovered include (but are not limited to):
Because consumers are required to consistently provide data to access different things online (or in-person), there is no foolproof way to prevent data from being leaked. What people can do is control the amount and type of data that they are making available online, and track any reports or alerts that indicate their information was involved in a leak.
To do so:
Cloaked allows you to create new identities for every new connection–online and in real life. If a company you’ve Cloaked gets breached, simply delete the identity from your database. Because the information that you shared was not personally identifiable, you never have to worry about hackers using it to gain access to your accounts, or life.
Click here to get started now.