The Top Common Causes of Data Loss — and How to Prevent Them

Data Loss
Best Practices
5 min read
James Mignacca
October 11, 2023
James Mignacca
October 11, 2023
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Perhaps the only thing more damaging than suffering a data breach are the recovery costs associated with it. According to the 2023 IBM Cost of a Data Breach report, data loss is costing businesses 2.3 percent more year-over-year, with the average cost of breach rising to a staggering USD 4.45 million. The cost of a data breach isn’t explicitly related to leaked data; recovery or restoration expenses, customer compensation, and in some cases legal or regulatory fines all add up.

Protecting your data has never been more important, but data protection can’t be achieved with a one-size-fits-all approach. Instituting and maintaining a robust security posture starts by understanding the kinds of data your business has, the risks and vulnerabilities associated with it, and how it affects your business’s overall attack surface.

Understanding the common causes of data loss and the trends that are driving risk

Several attack trends have been impacting data loss and the types of compromised data in recent years. These trends reflect the evolving tactics of cybercriminals and how they’re able to capitalize on an ever-changing attack surface.

Here are some noteworthy attack trends:

Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks continue to surge and affect organizations of all sizes and industries. However, more companies are opting out of ransom payments, leading to far less financial loss. In fact, according to the Verizon 2023 Data Breach Investigations (DBIR) Report, 93% of ransomware incidents had no financial loss. Ensuring data backups and data recovery plans are in place gives IT and security leaders confidence that they can weather a ransomware attack relatively unscathed. Per the 2023 Data Breach and Investigations report, system intrusions were the leading driver of ransomware or malware delivery.

Supply Chain Attacks

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting the supply chain to compromise data. This involves infiltrating trusted third-party vendors or software providers to gain access to an organization's systems and data.

Zero-Day Exploits

Attackers are exploiting previously unknown vulnerabilities (zero-days) in software and hardware to gain unauthorized access to systems and steal sensitive data. These exploits are particularly challenging to defend against because there are no available patches. Notable examples include zero-day vulnerabilities in Google Chrome, Microsoft Windows Support Diagnostic Tool, and Atlassian’s Confluence Data Center and Server.

Insider Threats

Insider threats, both malicious and unintentional, continue to be a significant concern. Employees or contractors with access to sensitive data may intentionally or inadvertently compromise it. Internal threat actors (employees or contractors) accounted for 99% of reported privilege misuse breaches in the DBIR report.

Credential Theft and Phishing

Phishing attacks are evolving, with cybercriminals using increasingly convincing social engineering techniques to trick individuals into revealing their credentials. Once attackers have valid login information, they can access sensitive data. According to the DBIR report the median amount stolen via phishing attacks increased over the last couple of years to $50,000.

Cloud Security Risks

As organizations move more data and services to the cloud, cloud-specific security risks have emerged. Misconfigured cloud storage and weak access controls have led to data exposure incidents.

AI and Machine Learning Attacks

Attackers are increasingly using artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate and enhance the sophistication of their attack techniques. These technologies can be used to identify vulnerabilities, bypass security measures, and carry out more evasive attacks.

Mobile Device Compromises

With the increasing use of mobile devices for work, cybercriminals are targeting smartphones and tablets to gain access to sensitive corporate data, personal information, and credentials.

IoT Vulnerabilities

The proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has created new attack surfaces. Vulnerable IoT devices can be compromised to gain access to networks and data.

Minimizing the risk of data loss

Regardless of an attack’s entry point, data loss can be a devastating and costly issue for organizations. To mitigate the impact of these attack trends and protect against data loss, organizations should implement a holistic attack surface management strategy that includes robust perimeter defenses, intrusion detection systems, encryption, access controls, employee training, incident response plans, and ongoing monitoring and assessment of security measures. Staying informed about emerging threats and evolving data security best practices is crucial in this rapidly changing landscape.

Here are 5 ways IT and security professionals can mitigate data loss risk:

1. Maintain regular backups:

Schedule automated backups for critical data and test data restoration processes periodically to ensure they work as intended.

2. Review and maintain your business’s disaster recovery plan:

Develop and test a comprehensive disaster recovery plan to ensure data can be quickly restored.

3. Implement data encryption:

Encrypt sensitive data both at rest and in transit. This way, even if it's accessed or stolen, it remains unintelligible to unauthorized users.

4. Maintain an incident response plan:

Develop a well-defined incident response plan that outlines steps to take in case of data loss or breach. This plan should include communication procedures and responsibilities.

5. Conduct regular security audits:

Regularly audit and monitor your systems and networks for security vulnerabilities and unusual activities.

Using automated data discovery to mitigate data loss risk

The first step to data protection is data discovery. Automated data discovery helps you find, classify, and manage data across the organization. The Cavelo platform helps you classify data by type, helping you maintain an up-to-date data inventory while gaining visibility into data vulnerabilities and data access.

Take a self-guided tour of the Cavelo platform today and see how it can help your team mitigate data loss risk, and check out the Data Protection Solutions Guide for more information on data protection frameworks and best practice tips.

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