Many organizations don’t realize they have fallen victim to a data breach until weeks or months after the fact. According to IBM and the Ponemon Institute, businesses take around 287 days to detect and contain a breach. Within that period, they lose an average of $4.24 million in revenue due to customer turnover and system downtime as well as other related costs.
Signs of a data breach
Your business can avoid such heavy losses if you know what to look out for so you can identify a breach and take the steps necessary to contain it as soon as it happens. Here are seven telltale signs of a data breach that you should pay attention to.
Abnormal user activity
The members of your team typically sign in to their accounts at the same time every day, from the same location or device. They use the same username and password combinations to access their accounts and the data they need to accomplish their tasks. Any activity that’s outside of what’s normal is a sign that your systems have been compromised. Anomalies to look out for include:
- Logins at odd hours or from new devices or locations
- Simultaneous logins from multiple locations and/or devices
- Large data transfers or multiple file downloads within a single login session
- Sudden or unplanned password changes
Unusual file changes
Once they’ve infiltrated your systems, cybercriminals may delete, replace, or modify your files. For instance, they may manipulate operating system files to access a certain endpoint device. They may also make changes to files that provide access to other endpoints, allowing lateral movement across your network.
Changes to security settings
Sometimes, firewalls, antivirus software, and other security tools are turned off or reconfigured by mistake. However, it’s also likely that cybercriminals or even an internal threat actor made deliberate changes to your company’s cybersecurity solutions to avoid detection. Recurring issues, in particular, are a clear indication of an attack.
Users often forget their passwords, which is no surprise, given that the average person has 100 passwords to remember. It’s not uncommon for a user to be locked out of their account after too many failed login attempts. But being locked out after a single failed attempt is a red flag. What’s even more alarming is if this is experienced by several users within your organization. It could indicate that someone else has attempted to access your systems using those users’ credentials, and may have possibly gotten in and changed the passwords.
Slow internet connection
Cybercriminals often use malware to facilitate the transfer of data from their target’s compromised devices or systems to their own servers. This uses up a large volume of internet bandwidth, which could cause your internet connection to slow down to a crawl.
Data breaches that are induced by a malware infection can cause computers in your network to behave strangely. The malware can consume infected computers’ processing power and cause them to run slowly. It can also cause devices to suddenly freeze or shut down, or install apps onto computers without you knowing. Users may even be unable to use their keyboards, mice, or touchpads.
Web browser redirects
When looking for signs of a data breach, you shouldn’t overlook your web browser. Check for any issues such as slow loading times, random pop-ups, or website redirects. In particular, a redirect could mean that the website your employees are visiting has been compromised and the devices accessing it — as well as the network these are connected to — may soon be compromised as well.
Responding to a data breach
The causes and impacts of data breaches may vary from case to case, so there is no single way of responding to one. In general, however, effective data breach response plans include these four key steps:
- Contain the breach to stop further data loss or damage. Take all affected devices offline and update the login credentials of authorized users.
- Perform a preliminary assessment of the possible cause, the severity and extent, and the associated risks of the breach.
- Notify local and federal law enforcement and the affected parties (e.g., clients, business partners). Follow your state’s security breach notification laws and industry-specific standards, such as the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule for healthcare providers.
- Evaluate how well you handled the breach and identify areas that need improvement. You should also consider strategies to enhance your defenses against future breaches, including providing your staff with ongoing cybersecurity training, performing regular vulnerability assessments, and developing a data breach response plan.
For help securing your Florida business’s critical data, turn to Cutting Edge Network Technologies. We have the experience and expertise to ensure you’re protected against catastrophic data breaches and other threats to your operations. Get in touch today.