Stay Ahead of Cybersecurity Breaches and Off the Media’s Radar

A version of this article was updated April 19, 2024.

Every year, we continue to see high-profile data security breaches reported in the media. This is because cybercriminals and malicious attackers have an extensive wish list that includes personally identifiable information (PII), payment card data, medical records, and other sensitive data.

If it feels like cyberattacks have become more frequent, it’s because they have. As cyberattacks become more prolific and publicized, it’s easy to conclude that the question becomes not if, but when information will be compromised. The key is understanding what you can do to help you stay one step ahead.

What’s Driving the Surge in Cybersecurity Threats?

There are several reasons for the surge in cybersecurity threats and the motivations behind them continue to evolve. Here are key contributors to the increase in cybersecurity threats.

Sophistication of Attacks

Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated, utilizing advanced techniques and tools, including employing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to enhance attack effectiveness and avoid traditional security measures.

Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks have become a prominent and lucrative form of cybercrime. Criminals use malware to encrypt data and demand a ransom payment in the form of cryptocurrency for its release. The anonymity provided by cryptocurrencies facilitates these extortion schemes.

Social Engineering

Cyber criminals frequently use social engineering tactics to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential information or performing actions that compromise security. Phishing, in particular, remains a prevalent method for attackers to gain unauthorized access to systems and data.

Lack of Cybersecurity Awareness

Many individuals and organizations still lack sufficient awareness of cybersecurity best practices. Education and training are crucial in preventing common security lapses that could lead to data breaches.

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

Cybercriminals often target supply chains to compromise large numbers of organizations indirectly. Weak links in the supply chain can be exploited to gain access to more secure targets.

Poor Vendor Management

If a vendor isn’t properly vetted or monitored, they may not meet the organization’s security or compliance requirements, which can result in data breaches or regulatory fines. Vendor management programs are designed to ensure that vendors are meeting the organization's requirements and that any potential risks are identified and addressed in a timely manner.

Inadequate Cybersecurity Practices

Organizations with insufficient cybersecurity measures in place, whether due to a lack of awareness, resources, or a failure to keep up with evolving threats, create vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit.

Addressing the surge in cybersecurity threats requires a multi-faceted approach that includes both technical and nontechnical measures, such as policies and procedures, increased awareness and education, and enhancing technology controls based on best practices.  

What Should You Do in the Event of a Breach?

If your organization does experience a data breach, there are immediate steps that should be taken to minimize impact and damage and aid in the recovery process.

Activate the Incident Response Plan

This incident response plan should outline the steps to be taken in the event of a cybersecurity incident, including roles and responsibilities of team members. It should also include common threats and risks to your business so that playbooks for responding to these events are created in advance for team members to follow.

Isolate and Contain the Breach, Preserve Evidence

Identify and isolate the affected systems to prevent the spread of the breach. Disconnect compromised devices from the network to contain the incident. Don’t power down systems as you may need to preserve evidence of the breach. This evidence may be crucial for forensic analysis and investigations.

Notify Key Stakeholders and Cyber Insurance Carrier

Notify key stakeholders, including executive leadership, IT teams, legal counsel, and relevant law enforcement agencies, if necessary. Contact your insurance carrier to determine what’s covered, which may include legal issues, public relations and communications, notifications to external parties, forensics activities, and the overall response effort. Ensure clear lines of communication are established to keep everyone informed.

Engage Cybersecurity Experts

Bring in cybersecurity experts or a response team to assist in investigating the breach, determining the extent of the compromise, and identifying the vulnerabilities that led to the incident. Your insurance provider may require you to use professionals they have on retainer.

Recovery and Remediation

Follow your disaster recovery plan to quickly restore systems. This may involve restoring from backups, reconfiguring systems, implementing security patches, and strengthening security measures.

Assess and Mitigate

Conduct a thorough assessment of the breach to understand how it occurred and what data may have been compromised. Use a third-party provider to help assess the current cybersecurity posture following recovery to help ensure that risks are minimized.

Learn from the Incident

Conduct a post-incident analysis to identify lessons learned. Use this information to update and improve your incident response plan, disaster recovery plan, and overall cybersecurity strategy.

Reevaluate and Enhance Security Measures

Continuously reevaluate and enhance your organization's security measures based on the insights gained from the incident. Stay vigilant and adapt to emerging threats.

Train and Educate Employees

Provide additional training and education to employees based on the lessons learned from the breach. Reinforce the importance of cybersecurity best practices.

The key to effective cybersecurity isn’t only responding to incidents, but also proactively working to prevent them.

Looking Forward

A cybersecurity breach is never a good thing. While the threat and risk of a breach will persist, there are important measures you can take to help minimize risk exposure and impact. Instituting regular security awareness training, implementing access controls, proactive monitoring and analyzing of network activity, conducting due diligence on service providers, and performing regular cybersecurity assessments and penetration tests can be instrumental to reducing the risk of a breach.

Staying aware of evolving cybersecurity threats will go a long way to enhancing your organization’s security posture while keeping you out of the headlines.

We’re Here to Help

For more information about how to prevent breaches, contact your Moss Adams professional.

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