Data breaches are a serious issue that affects all types of organizations. Every day, more and more companies and organizations are at risk of experiencing a data breach, which can have harmful consequences for their customers and employees. And of course, data breaches are really bad for businesses, especially if the authorities start poking around following a breach, and discover that the company was not complying with the applicable laws.
The Warning Signs of a Data Breach in Progress
According to a recent study by Vodafone, 54% of SMEs in the UK had experienced some form of cyber-attack in 2022, up from 39% in 2020. Fortunately, there are warning signs that can help organizations catch a data breach before it becomes a larger issue. In order to know where to look for these warning signs, there are certain areas that need to be focused on, which include;
- The data itself;
- The people who interact with the data;
- The means by which they interact with the data;
- The IT environment, including the apps, devices, servers, etc.
Below are some of the key warning signs of a data breach in progress:
1. Accounts Being Accessed and Used Suspiciously
You must pay close attention to how your user accounts are being accessed and used, especially accounts with extended privileges. Watch out for suspicious logon activity, such as users logging into their account outside of office hours, multiple users logging in to the same account, locked user accounts, and users accessing data they don’t normally require access to. In other words, make sure that you keep a close eye on any atypical account access patterns.
2. Anomalies in Data Usage
You will need to keep track of any unusual file changes, shares, and downloads. This might include unusually large file transfers, a user downloading data to an external storage device, or when a large number of files have been encrypted within a short space of time.
3. Anomalies in User Behavior
According to the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 22% of security incidents are caused by insiders. However, it should be noted that it is difficult to determine the actual percentage of breaches caused by malicious insiders, as many breaches are the consequences of employee negligence. Were we to include negligence as a threat to our data, the figure cited above will likely be a lot higher. Either way, it is important to keep an eye on your employees, both online and offline – whilst respecting their privacy, of course. This might include an employee working unusually long hours, printing large amounts of documents, complaining about the company to other members of staff, logging into the company network from a foreign IP address, and so on.
4. Changes to Infrastructure and the State of Your Security
There are certain warning signs to watch out for relating to the apps, systems, and devices that connect to, or exist within your network. To start with, keep a close eye on the performance of your network. For example, crypto-jacking malware will affect the performance of the devices it is installed on, as it is used to mine cryptocurrencies. Keep an eye on which applications are installed, unusual outbound traffic, outdated hardware, changes to security settings, and any unrecognized programs running in the background. You must also ensure that your server logs are tamper-proof, or at least continuously monitored to prevent unauthorized access.
How Anomaly Detection Helps in Spotting Data Breaches in Progress
Anomaly detection helps in spotting a data breach in progress by monitoring for unusual patterns or behaviors associated with the data, as well as the accounts that have access to the data. A sophisticated data governance platform will help you identify over-exposed data and misconfigurations, help you locate your most valuable data, and enable you to clearly see who has access to it. They can provide real-time alerts to your inbox or mobile device, and provide detailed compliance reports that can be generated at the click of a button. Some of the more advanced solutions use machine learning techniques to identify anomalous activities and automatically respond to events that match a pre-defined threshold condition. This might include multiple failed logon attempts, or when an unusually large number of files are encrypted within a given time frame.