As the world continues to keep up with advanced technologies, cybercriminals are becoming more tech-savvy as well. Thus, cybersecurity threats have grown significantly. Just take a look at Statista’s numbers: the mean cost of a data breach has increased from $4.24 (2021) to $4.35 million (2022).
In order to achieve a robust security environment, companies have to invest a lot of effort an resources into it. But given that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to protection against website data breaches, companies can start by investigating the most common best practices listed below.These best practices can be applied to any company and are quite easy to implement.
What is a data breach?
But first, let’s define a data breach. It is an unauthorized access or disclosure of sensitive, personal, corporate, confidential, or other protected data. As a result of a data breach, the files are viewed or shared without permission. Breach of data can include bank account numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, and email addresses, along with other information that poses an increased security risk.
Any organization regardless of its size and type may suffer from a data breach. More importantly, data breaches negatively impact the company’s reputation and most often lead to major financial losses. This is why it is so important to understand where they might come from.
The main reasons why data breaches occur
There are many different types of data breaches and they may happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, data breaches are the result of intentional attacks. However, the causes can also be a simple lack of attention by individuals or a flaw in the company’s infrastructure.
The primary reasons for a data breach usually include:
- Accidental data leak: a configuration error or a data-related error can provide opportunities for cybercriminals;
- Weak internal security policies: occurs when criminals take advantage of weak or ineffective corporate security policies or exploit misplaced or improperly decommissioned devices;
- Distributed denial of service (DDoS): attacks target networks and systems by flooding them with an aim to disrupt the performance;
- Weak password policies: a password-cracking tool can gain access to systems and data when unlimited password attempts are allowed;
- Internal attacks: occur when an employee or a contractor gains access to confidential data for malicious purposes;
- Malicious software installation and use: any program or file intended to gain unauthorized access to a system.
- Inadequate access control: out-of-date or unreliable access controls are obvious entry points that allow lateral movement into a system.
Bear in mind that as computers and mobile devices become more advanced, more opportunities for data breaches arise. So if you don’t have effective security, you are almost assured of being at risk. Luckily, there are numerous ways to strengthen your cybersecurity – let’s have a look at them.
How to prevent a data breach: the best practices
Data breaches and leaks are only as secure as your weakest link. Everyone who interacts with a corporate system can be a potential vulnerability. Hence, all levels of the organization need to be involved in data breach prevention, from end users to staff. To ensure a well-developed security strategy, let’s go over the most common methods for preventing a data breach.
Install security plugins
Using a platform (i.e. a CMS) with useful plugins offers a lot of benefits, but it also carries risks. Most website infections arise from vulnerabilities in such platforms. This allows hackers to examine the code for security vulnerabilities and exploit them to take control over your website.
To mitigate any risks, always make sure your plugins, software (more about it below), or other systems you’ve installed are up-to-date. A security plugin can detect and keep your website safe from malware attacks and other cyber threats. Aside from that, companies can also use licensed antivirus software to add an extra layer of protection to a system.
Update software regularly
Using outdated software can expose your website to malware, cyber-attacks, and other security threats. To prevent these problems, make sure that your software is updated regularly. The easiest way to do it is to check for any updates or to set up automatic updates. Updates normally include security patches that help strengthen the security of a software product and thus, make it less exposed to threats.
Pay attention that many hosting providers offer managed hosting like WordPress, which takes care of updates instead of you. But you can also choose a built-in option that enables auto-updates.
Back up a website regularly
One of the worst outcomes of website hacking is losing all information because you forgot (or neglected) to back up your website. Although creating backups isn’t the most powerful way to protect your website, it is essential in cases of malicious attacks or hardware failure.
Without a backup, companies risk losing all of the data. Likewise, backups can save you time, money, and effort so that they can be restored in the event of data loss. It is possible to create backups manually, with a specialized tool, or rely on your hosting provider. Many tools by hosting providers will allow companies to schedule and automate backups for free, or for a small fee.
Use an SSL certificate
SSL, also known as Secure Sockets Layer, creates an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser. Once you install the SSL certificate on your website, you can easily redirect the traffic from an HTTP to a secure HTTPS. In other words, any data exchanged between a visitor and a website will be secure.
If you’re collecting sensitive information from your users, HTTPS is a must. It is crucial to protect the sensitive and personal information of your customers from hackers. In fact, you do not need any technical knowledge to have your website secured with SSL. You can easily get an SSL certificate from a hosting provider, domain registrar, or certificate authority (CA).
Keep strong passwords
The use of simple passwords makes it easy for hackers to break into your website. Thus, creating strong passwords is a simple and free method of protecting your website. As you know, strong passwords usually include capital letters, numbers, and symbols. Alternatively, you can use a free password manager like Dashlane or HostGator’s password generator to manage your passwords.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of protection for a password. With the security layer, your password is bound using a text code, facial recognition, or a fingerprint as a double-sided puzzle. Anyone who tries to break into your website will have to solve both puzzles. Two-factor authentication is not a perfect solution — but it will improve a website’s security.
Monitor file uploads
Hackers can upload malicious files or overwrite important files on a website. To resolve this problem, you can try disabling all options for uploading files (if possible). However, many industries, like healthcare, need to allow users to securely share documents. So what do you do?
Here are some ways to keep your website and files safe:
- Limit file size: setting a maximum upload size prevents hackers from uploading heavy files;
- Check files for malware: use antivirus software to check files before you open them;
- Rename the files upon upload: when hackers try to access their file with a different name, they will not be able to;
- Accept certain file types only: do now allow users to upload any sort of file. For example, if you want users to upload pictures, you may allow the JPG format only.
Train your staff
Often, a data breach occurs due to the employee’s negligence, lack of technical knowledge and awareness of data security, or lack of skills in handling data. Fortunately, there are easy ways to eliminate the issue.
First, businesses need to provide appropriate security training. To train their employees in cybersecurity, organizations can use different programs like the Polymer DLP Behavioral Approach or hold small webinars. Second, establish guidelines on what to do if you encounter a threat and make sure everyone understands them.
It might seem like these are small steps with minimal outcomes. However, as a result of trained employees, organizations can maintain a secure environment and reduce the chance of accidental data loss.
Because cyberattacks are unpredictable, any business must develop a reliable security strategy in advance. In order to achieve this goal, it is important to use not just one, but a combination of all the proactive practices listed above. Keeping them in mind can help businesses protect their websites from data breaches and keep a website’s security as effective as possible.
Anastasia works as a content creator at SoftTeco. She loves writing engaging and useful articles that deal with cutting-edge technologies, software development, cybersecurity, and many other topics. She contributes to other websites, as well.
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Review How To Protect Your Website From a Data Breach: Best Practices.