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Merchant Security Awareness

Data breaches demystified: safeguarding your digital world

September 13, 2023
September 13, 2023
4 mins read
Astor George
Astor George
Brand Storyteller

Editor's note:

A data breach is a security incident in which unauthorised individuals or entities gain access to sensitive, confidential, or protected information without permission. These breaches can occur in various ways, including through hacking, malware, phishing attacks, physical theft, or accidental exposure.

When a data breach happens, it often results in the exposure, theft, or compromise of personal, financial, or sensitive information, which can have serious consequences for individuals, organisations, or even governments.

Stats on data breaches

  • Due to a malevolent outsider who obtained access through identity theft, Yahoo faced a data breach that affected over 1,000,000,000 people.
  • 45% of the data breaches were cloud-based. 
  • Phishing accounts for about 22% of all data breaches, earning it a spot as one of the most common cybercrimes in the FBI's 2021 IC3 Report.
  • The biggest breach to date: Twitter, with allegedly 235 million emails leaked
  • Data breaches caused by third party data exposure: 11,354,000+

If you think you’re safe from data breaches because you’re just little old you going about your day, think again.

You’re just as much a target as any big corporation.

8 ways you can avoid data breaches

1. Reporting security incidents

A security incident includes any event that could lead to unauthorised access to data, systems, or members of an organisation. If you see something in the physical or digital domains that could potentially be a security incident, report it immediately. In a perfect world, security incidents would never occur, but the growing cyber landscape offers a different reality. By reporting incidents immediately, you help reduce the damage they could cause.

2. Beware of phishing attacks

When personal information ends up in the hands of criminals, there is often an increase in spear fishing. The attacker has your information, which means they can then tailor emails that look legit. Know how to recognise social engineering attacks via email, SMS, phone calls, and social media.

3. Update your softwares and devices

Outdated devices and software provide cybercriminals an opportunity to exploit security vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are commonly posted in public forums when discovered. That’s why manufacturers and developers routinely issue updates to patch crucial security flaws. Enable automatic updates so you never miss an important fix.

Mind your devices. Our lives are more mobile than ever thanks to smartphones and tablets. Where we go, our information goes. Always keep your gadgets with you when you are not in the office. 

4. Change your credentials

Change your credentials immediately you realize that there is a data breach affecting any of your accounts. It’s hard to know exactly what was stolen, so do this on every account that might remotely be tied to the breach. And while you’re at it, enable two-factor authentication if available

5. Protect your inbox

One of the biggest mistakes anyone can make is assuming that phishing attacks are reserved for large organisations. Cybercriminals will gladly enter your personal inbox, hoping to spread computer infections or steal confidential data. As always, stay alert and keep an eye out for common warning signs, just like you do at work.

6. Think like a scammer

Scammers often create fictitious scenarios to gain and exploit trust. You can identify these situations by thinking about it from their perspective. How would you convince someone to send you money or sensitive information? Use that line of questioning when dealing with those requests and allow skepticism to guide your thought process. 

7. Use security tools

While there’s no such thing as a flawless security tool, there are many options you can use to upgrade your security. Examples include antivirus software, ad-blockers, multi-factor authentication, etc.

8. Prioritise your online privacy

One of the keys cybercriminals need to unlock their scams is your personal information. They find those keys by creating social media profiles in search of any details you’ve made public. Prioritise your online safety by setting your social media accounts to private, vetting all friend requests, and limiting the amount of personal information you share

Browse the internet with caution.

Think before you click.