Say, you get a call one day, from your boss advising you that there have been sudden complaints about fraudulent activity tracing back to the company. He informs you that he feels they may have been a security breach within the network and requires you to manage the situation immediately. You may begin to wonder that you’ve addressed incidents such as malware exposures, but after having a look at the problem, you realize that your company has never managed anything of the sort. How, then do you begin to analyze and address the data violation? What do you recover? What will stakeholders and investors make of the scenario?
This sort of scenario can be an all-too-familiar one. As hackers gain greater ground, data violations continue to rise with companies no longer pondering whether a data breach could take place, but rather become aware they could experience one or are already experiencing one without knowing it.
The consequences of a data breach can be disastrous. Take, for instance, when the data breach at Sony Corporation’s online videogame services took place in 2011, the company reported losses of over US$1 billion.
Preparing in advance for a data breach is a significant way of reducing the associated impact to a company by over 20%, as mentioned by Symantec in its 2013 US study of the Cost of a Data Breach.
Data security and protecting one’s cyber assets is impossible to ignore in this day and age. But what one needs to understand is to define critical breach-related terms to ensure adequate context and clarity:
- Data security event: Any activity directed to a company’s network, systems or individuals with the aim to disregard the target’s assets.
- Data security incident: Any event that violates the security and privacy policies of an organization, regulations, legislation or contract.
- Data breach: A security incident that: includes planned or inadvertent admittance, exposure, alteration or destruction of content; or answers exact definitions of a data breach as defined by the state, federal laws or active contracts with third-party vendors, associates, partners or clients.
In light of these definitions, businesses across the world experience similar events on any given day. Subsets of these events could also be qualified as literal data security incidents, and a subset of such incidents could be passed as data breaches. In an organizational setting, it is crucial to treat all experiences as potential data breaches until the time they can be adequately restrained. If not, an incident not handled with the gravity and concentration of a data breach could be later qualified as one that could expose the company to enhanced reputational damages, lawsuits and fines. Examples that fit into the definition of a data breach include hackers breaking into a computer to steal content and information; a malicious employee who overlooks personal access to company networks and systems and destroys, adjusts or exposes data to unauthorized parties; or an insider or third-party who unintentionally loses information secured on any storage media.
Data security for years has been viewed by several experts as mainly a technological issue. Unfortunately, this narrow view has resulted in data breach management focusing only on technical responses in data breach response plans. Given this restricted focus, these response plans generally tend to centre around how to swiftly recognize and extract a compromised piece of hardware from the system to limit the impact to business functionalities. What companies need to realize is that technological responses are just one aspect of a series of events a breached company would need to experience to recover. This series of processes is regarded as a data breach lifecycle. The lifecycle begins before the company detects the data breach and ends long after the breach has been settled and business functionalities have resumed.
In identifying the source of a data breach, organizations must realize that such violations can take place as a result of various incidents, some of them being:
- Targeted data attacked by a hacker, mainly targeting a company.
- An opportunistic data attack by a criminal searching the Internet for exposed systems, discovering and exploiting them.
- Unintentionally through mishaps such as employees losing computing hardware or storage media containing classified information, or by an incident at a third-party premise that was entrusted to protect client information.
Given that data breaches are continuing to rise, every organization must have a document security system in place that can secure classified data against misuse and exposure. As a trusted approach to protecting confidential information, digital rights management can safeguard your company’s sensitive documents and data that needs to be shared with outside parties or stored within the organization. Document security solutions such as PDF DRM can protect information within PDF files from being disclosed or altered in any way. PDF DRM’s main goal is to curtail the printing, altering, copying, sharing and viewing of sensitive documents by unauthorized parties. As an encryption product, PDF DRM can be an ideal solution for companies across industries and sectors where dynamic, confidential information sharing between various entities within and outside the organization becomes a daily routine.