5 Common Causes of Data Breaches & Easy Ways to Avoid Them

In the third quarter of 2022 alone, 15 million data records were exposed worldwide through data breaches—a 37% increase from the quarter previous. While common, a data breach is an event no business wants to experience. The potential for lost corporate information, leaked customer data, and reputational and financial repercussions can cripple organizations. 

Like any business risk, it’s best to be proactive and preventative versus reactive and regretful. Cyber security should be built into your business technology from the ground up—but even then, regular maintenance and security hygiene are necessary to avoid a cyber attack. In this article, we’ll review five of the most common causes of a data breach and ways you can fortify your organization against risk. 

1) Unpatched Vulnerabilities

Patching is a term used to describe system and code updates that are released to make improvements or resolve security vulnerabilities within a software program. When patches are left uninstalled, it increases your risk of experiencing a data breach. A Ponemon Institute study cited 57% of cyberattack victims report that their breach could have been avoided by installing an available patch.

The solution? Effective patch management. This is an ongoing effort by your IT team to assess the volume and priority of patches, develop policies and procedures for managing them, and take action to roll them out quickly and efficiently when they become available. Often, smaller IT teams struggle to keep up with patch management, which is where a Managed Service Provider (MSP) comes in handy. 

Read more about the best practices of Patch Management > 

2) Theft of Corporate Devices

While it may not seem like a likely culprit, theft of physical devices containing corporate information is a data breach cause worth mentioning. This can include devices like laptops, cellphones, tablets, USBs and others. A study by cloud security provider ForcepointONE cites that in the healthcare industry, 68% of data breaches are the result of mobile device theft—so what can businesses do to prevent it?  

While you can’t prevent theft, you can mitigate the breach. Because device theft is typically opportunistic in nature, the severity of these breaches depend largely on how easy it is to access sensitive information from that mobile device. Restricting access to highly sensitive information on mobile devices using solutions like Conditional Access is a start. Additional measures like multi-factor authentication (MFA) are also helpful and necessary. 

3) Human Error 

According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report, 82% of data breaches involve human error. Typically, this occurs due to either a lack of understanding of the risks of sharing information (employees doing something they shouldn’t) or due to a lack of user training (not doing something they should). Common types of human error that lead to data breaches include: 

  • Sharing sensitive information where it shouldn’t be shared
  • Misusing passwords and other sensitive data (i.e. credit card numbers)
  • Falling for phishing and social engineering attacks 

In any case, employee training is the number one remedy to mitigating data breaches caused by human error. To create a culture that’s sensitive to risk and security, executives and management should be involved in regularly communicating risks and educating employees on best practices.

Check out the Employee’s Guide to Spotting Phishing > 

4) Malware 

In the first half of 2022, the number of worldwide malware attacks reached 2.8 billion. Malware or “malicious software” is an intrusive software developed by cybercriminals. It can be downloaded onto your system in a variety of ways, such as visiting a hacked website, downloading infected files, downloading malicious programs or apps, or opening infected attachments. 

Cybercriminals get more and more sneaky with malware every day, so modern businesses need a number of defenses to prevent a successful attack. These measures include: 

  • Leveraging security software to monitor, respond to and remediate threats
  • Using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA) 
  • Educating your employees on phishing and internet safety 
  • Enforcing browsing and email security measures, and more

5) Weak & Stolen Credentials 

A 2021 survey of IT professionals revealed that 30% of password leaks and security breaches are the result of weak passwords. Despite these statistics, many businesses today shockingly don’t have a corporate password policy in place to protect against cybercriminals. 

With the existence of malicious programs designed to reveal passwords, it’s critical to require employees to use complex credentials that adhere to the following tenets: 

  • Don’t use personally identifiable information in your password (birthdays, names)
  • Avoid use simple keyboard sequences like 123456 or qwerty. 
  • Don’t put your password within the password hint bar 
  • Avoid sharing passwords with other users 
  • Don’t store your passwords in obvious locations 

Need help hardening your organization’s cybersecurity?  

The threat landscape is evolving each day, and it can be challenging for IT teams to keep up. But you don’t have to go it alone. IX Solutions can help your business stay steps ahead of the threat landscape with proactive cyber-threat monitoring, detection, response, and remediation. With enterprise-grade security solutions, we optimize your security posture and shield your business from malicious attacks. 

Ready to get started?

Let's Connect< Back to all posts