How To Prevent A Data Breach in Your Company

How To Prevent A Data Breach in Your Company

FACT: It takes an average of 204 days to identify a breach and then another 70 days to contain it.

To make matters worse, according to the IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach reached an all-time high of USD 4.45 million.

Dealing with a data breach after the fact is expensive.

Preventing a data breach is not only more cost-effective but also essential for maintaining your company’s reputation.

In this post, we’ll cover what a data breach is, what attackers do with the data, and the steps you can put in place today to prevent a breach in the future.

Table of contents:

What is a data breach

A data breach is a security incident in which sensitive data is accessed, disclosed, or stolen without permission.

This often includes different types of data like personal identification details (e.g., social security numbers, driver’s license numbers), financial data (e.g., credit card numbers, bank account information), health records, intellectual property, trade secrets, and other types of confidential information.

How do data breaches happen

Data breaches typically happen in one of several ways:

  • Hacking: Threat actors use various techniques, like exploiting vulnerabilities, often due to missing security patches in software, to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.
  • Phishing: Attackers trick individuals into revealing sensitive information or credentials through social engineering, deceptive emails, or messages.
  • Malware: Malicious software, such as stealer malware or ransomware, is used to infiltrate systems and steal or encrypt data.
  • Insider Threats: Employees or insiders with access to the organization’s network can intentionally or accidentally leak data.
  • Physical Theft: Devices like laptops, hard drives, or paper records containing sensitive data can be stolen.
  • Weak Passwords: Using easily guessable passwords or password reuse can allow attackers to easily gain access to accounts and data.
  • Misconfigured Servers: Improperly configured databases or cloud storage can unintentionally expose data to the public internet.
  • Third-Party Vendors: Breaches in third-party services or vendors that have access to your organization’s data can also lead to a data breach.

What can attackers do With stolen data

The impact of stolen data is highly dependent on the type of data leaked as well as the attacker’s intentions.

Having said that, attackers often use stolen data for one of the following types of malicious activity:

  • Identity Theft: Using personal information to impersonate someone and commit fraud, such as opening bank accounts, applying for loans, or making unauthorized purchases.
  • Financial Gain: Selling sensitive data like credit card numbers, bank account details, or Social Security numbers on the dark web to other criminals.
  • Blackmail and Extortion: Threatening to release sensitive or embarrassing information unless the victim pays a ransom.
  • Phishing Scams: Using stolen email addresses and personal information to craft convincing phishing emails to trick victims into revealing more information or downloading malware.
  • Credential Stuffing: Using stolen usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to other accounts, as people often reuse passwords across multiple sites.
  • Corporate Espionage: Stealing trade secrets, intellectual property, or business strategies to gain a competitive advantage or sell to rival companies.
  • Creating Fake Identities: Using stolen personal information to create fake identities often to commit fraud.
  • Spamming: Using stolen email addresses to send unsolicited emails or spam.
  • Targeted Attacks: Leveraging breached personal or organizational data to conduct more sophisticated or targeted attacks.

12 steps to prevent a data breach

Implementing the following 12 steps can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach in your company:

  1. Conduct Risk Assessments: Regularly assess your company’s security posture via vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and red team engagements to identify vulnerabilities and potential threats.
  2. Implement Security Fundamentals: Use firewalls, antivirus software, encryption, intrusion detection systems, and network segmentation to protect your network and data.
  3. Establish Access Controls: Limit access to sensitive data to only those employees who need it to perform their job duties. Use role-based access controls and multi-factor authentication.
  4. Update and Patch Systems: Regularly update and patch operating systems, software, and applications to fix security vulnerabilities. Ensure you have an updated asset inventory to work off of.
  5. Monitor and Audit: Continuously monitor your network for suspicious activities. Monitor the dark web for leaked company data and employee credentials to mitigate the risk before criminals exploit them.
  6. Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit to protect it from unauthorized access.
  7. Secure Physical Access: Control physical access to your company’s premises and secure devices like laptops, servers, and hard drives.
  8. Develop an Incident Response Plan: Have a plan in place to respond effectively to a data breach, including notifying affected parties and authorities.
  9. Vendor Management: Ensure that third-party vendors and partners follow strict security standards to protect any shared data.
  10. Regular Backups: Regularly back up important data and store it securely to recover from data loss or ransomware attacks.
  11. Educate Employees: Provide regular training on cybersecurity best practices, such as recognizing phishing emails, creating strong passwords, and reporting suspicious activities.
  12. Legal Compliance: Ensure compliance with relevant data protection laws and regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or CCPA.

Various tools can help implement some of the steps outlined above. Some recommended tools you can use to reduce the risk of a data breach include:

  • Asset inventory: runZero is a network discovery and asset inventory platform that helps organizations identify and manage devices connected to their networks. It provides visibility into network assets, enabling security teams to detect unknown devices, assess vulnerabilities, and ensure compliance with security policies.
  • Data Breach Monitoring: Breachsense provides real-time data breach monitoring to help organizations protect against online fraud, account takeovers, and upcoming attacks. The platform indexes a large variety of sources, including third-party breaches, stealer logs, leaked session cookies, employee credentials, and company data leaked or sold on the dark web.
  • Vulnerability Management: Rapid7 InsightVM vulnerability management solution provides visibility into the risks present in an organization’s IT environment. It offers real-time assessment, prioritization, and remediation guidance for vulnerabilities, helping businesses proactively address security weaknesses before they can be exploited by attackers.
  • Endpoint Protection: SentinelOne provides endpoint protection, detection, and response capabilities using artificial intelligence and machine learning. It offers real-time protection against a wide range of threats, including malware, ransomware, and sophisticated attacks, ensuring comprehensive security for endpoints and cloud workloads.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): Splunk is a SIEM platform that provides real-time visibility into an organization’s security posture. It enables security teams to quickly detect, investigate, and respond to internal and external threats by analyzing and correlating large amounts of data from various sources.


Data breaches are expensive and quite time-consuming to deal with, not to mention to reputational damage they can cause. That’s why preventing data breaches from happening in the first place is essential. By implementing the security measures outlined above, combined with regular vulnerability assessments and continuous dark web monitoring, companies can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach.

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