Lessons Learned From Data Breaches Past

Frankie Wallace

Information is one of the most valuable currencies there is. Whether it is sensitive corporate information or sets of individuals’ personal information, there are people out there who are interested in seeing it — legally or otherwise. While many consumers accept that companies collect and sell their data regularly, data breaches are a very real threat. In fact, they can expose huge amounts of information about a person or business with little to no recourse available.

Even though people often take intricate measures to protect their personal data, there is always someone working to figure out a way through any security measure. Unfortunately, once hackers compromise your information, there is little you can do except become better prepared for any future data breaches. As we move forward and learn more, we become a bit safer with each attempted breach, successful or not.

Data Breaches Aren’t Uncommon

Whether it is through outright hacking, the installation of malware on unsuspecting systems, or simply the theft of un-encrypted data, data breaches happen relatively frequently. Indeed, these breaches often amount to the loss of billions of dollars. Additionally, these breaches compromise of billions of individual accounts containing sensitive personal or financial data. Even if someone goes through the trouble of creating a seemingly breach-proof password for their accounts, all it takes is a single determined individual to find a way around standard security measures.

The people that are interested in these huge collections of data can strike industries that may not immediately come to mind. For example, Starwood, one of Marriott’s hotel chains, recently lost millions of guest records in a data breach. However, the breach may have started as far back as 2014 and affected some 500 million customers’ private data.

One of the major problems with data breaches is that they can go undetected for years on end; in fact, there are likely massive data breaches currently active with no one the wiser. Even if these companies have multiple layers of digital security in firewalls, encryption, and password-protected servers to stymie online threats, physical attacks or natural disasters can do just as much damage to data. Companies need to cover all their bases, both digital and physical, to be as prepared as possible for any potential breaches of their data.

What to Do If Your Website Is Hacked

If your business’ website suffers a data breach by way of hacking, there are some steps you should take immediately upon discovery of the breach. Firstly, change the password on your content management system. Additionally, make sure to contact whoever hosts your website to see if they are having security issues. After that, and after contacting all the appropriate parties, have your website developer sniff out and remove any malicious code they find.

Ultimately, communication is key when it comes to reacting to a data breach. Not only do you need to quickly contact those that are able to hopefully undo any potential damage done by whoever hacked into your systems, but you also need to be straightforward with any individuals who may have had their personal data stolen. It is important to avoid reacting in the way Target did when their servers were breached in the 2013 holiday season: They attempted to keep the whole ordeal under wraps until they were eventually exposed when the story broke.

If you have recently experienced a breach, it is a good idea to back off of any file sharing you are engaged in until you are able to figure out exactly how the breach occurred and that there is no more malicious code present. Then, once you identify the source of the breach, you can resume file sharing with increased security. Going on with business as usual immediately after a breach is incredibly risky, as the extent of the breach should be fully understood before any more important information is shared through the site.

How AI Can Improve Security

Luckily, though those determined to obtain information illegally are constantly finding new ways to do so, defense against such attacks are also being improved by the day. In fact, artificial intelligence and machine learning are already deeply ingrained in data management, and it is only a logical leap for AI systems to be developed to protect these data pools as well as analyze them. Soon, we can expect to see data systems that are almost entirely self-sufficient in terms of management and security.

AI’s cybersecurity potential is quite remarkable on paper. Artificial intelligence can detect threats and take the appropriate measures in real time, potentially stopping breaches before they even occur. Additionally, AI integrates with biometric logins instead of the traditional and more susceptible passwords regularly used. This ensures that only
pre-selected people can manipulate the data.

In the meantime, it is still important to take every measure possible to prevent data and security breaches. Protect your information and attempt to reduce the transfer of data to a minimum. Restrict download capabilities on sensitive information and ban any un-encrypted devices. Education against data breaches is extremely important as well, as hackers often find routes into the inner workings of data management systems through social engineering and sloppy individual employee security.

While data breaches will likely never become a thing of the past, as we progress we learn from our mistakes and make it more difficult for breaches to occur. By looking at the past, we can anticipate the future, preparing ourselves for whatever may come. Ultimately, being as prepared for data breaches as possible is the best we can do, as we never know when or where they will occur.

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