What is a Security Breach?

What is a Security Breach?

A security breach is when an incident occurs that results in unauthorized access to sensitive data, applications, networks or devices. Typically, when a security breach happens the intruder is able to bypass security measures that were put in place to keep them out. As a result of a security breach, a company or organization’s public image suffers, which can lead to the company losing money. The company or organization could also suffer legal consequences. For individuals, the consequences could also be severe, especially if the security breach turns into a data breach and they end up getting their private data stolen. 

Security Breach Vs. Data Breach

Although the terms “security breach” and “data breach” are often used interchangeably, they are two different things. A security breach is when the cybercriminal “breaks in,” whereas a data breach is when the cybercriminal also steals information after breaking in. Think of it like an intruder breaking into your home. The security breach would be the intruder pick-locking your door and the data breach would be the intruder stealing your things.

Types of Security Breaches

Attackers can breach security using various tactics – below are a few such ways. 

Viruses, spyware and other malware

Viruses, spyware and malware are all types of malicious software used to break into protected networks. Malware is mainly deployed through sending emails and embedded links – when the victim clicks on the link their system fails and becomes infected. 

Password spraying 

A password spraying attack is when an attacker uses common passwords to attempt to access several accounts on one domain. Through this kind of attack, cybercriminals can gain access to several accounts at once.

Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack

A man-in-the-middle attack is when a cybercriminal intercepts data sent between two businesses or people. Cybercriminals essentially act as “middlemen” between the person sending information and the one receiving it. This attack is especially common when utilizing public WiFi because it is often unsecured and anyone can sign on – making it easier to gain access to personal information.

Phishing

Phishing is a sophisticated social engineering attack designed to trick a victim into disclosing personal information.The attacker sends emails with links that take the victim to fake websites designed to look like legitimate ones, then steals the information they input. 

Distributed denial of service (DDoS)

A distributed denial of service attack is an attempt to disrupt the normal traffic of a targeted server. This is done by overwhelming the server, service or network that is being targeted with a flood of internet traffic. You can think of it as a car disrupting traffic and preventing the flow. When the traffic of a server is disrupted, the site or service you are trying to access will become slow or appear as unavailable. Traffic analytics tools can be used to identify suspicious activity like an unusual amount of traffic originating from a single IP address. 

What to Do if You Experience a Security Breach

If you discover that a major company you are a customer of has experienced a security breach, you must take immediate action to protect yourself. The same goes if you believe your personal devices have been compromised. Keep in mind that if one of your account’s security is compromised, then there is a possibility that your other accounts may also be at risk if you reuse the same password. Here are three steps you can take after experiencing a security breach. 

  1. Change the passwords on all your accounts. If you’re someone who uses the same passwords on all your accounts or you use different variations of the same passwords, the number one thing you should do is change all your passwords. Changing your passwords doesn’t have to be a difficult or lengthy task – a password manager makes it easy to change your passwords, while also having them be strong and unique. Plus, the only one you’ll have to remember is your master password, which gives you access to all the passwords in your password vault. 
  2. Consider freezing your credit. Also known as a security freeze, a credit freeze could be helpful if you believe the attacker has gotten access to your personal data, giving them the ability to steal your identity. Getting a copy of your credit report can help confirm if your identity was stolen. A credit freeze helps prevent the attacker from being able to open new accounts under your name.
  3. Keep an eye on your accounts for any new activity. Since it’s possible that your other accounts may also become compromised during a security breach, it’s important that you monitor them closely to make sure there isn’t any suspicious activity going on. 

How to Protect Yourself Against a Security Breach

It is important to know how to protect yourself from ever experiencing a security breach. There are several steps you can take to protect yourself, your business or organization. 

Step 1: Get a password manager 

The first step in protecting yourself from security breaches is to use a password manager. A password manager prevents you from recycling passwords on numerous websites and aids you in changing your password anytime you may need to. It’ll help you generate and save strong passwords for each of your accounts so the process of updating your passwords is easy.

Step 2: Utilize a dark web scanner

A dark web scanner or monitor is a tool used to scan the dark web for your credentials to see if any of them were found in a breach. You can use a free personal dark web scan or a free business dark web scan tool to make sure your credentials are safe. Or you can add a dark web monitoring solution to your password manager. Keeper offers the add-on BreachWatch, which monitors the dark web for breached accounts and alerts you so you can take immediate action to protect yourself against cybercriminals. 

Step 3: Close accounts you no longer use

A vital step in making sure your accounts are not breached is by closing any accounts you no longer use. If you’re no longer using an account and it becomes compromised, this opens the door to having your other accounts breached too. 

Step 4: Backup your files

Some security breaches result in files becoming encrypted, meaning there is malicious software preventing you from being able to access any of your computer files, systems or networks. The attacker will then demand that you pay a ransom in order to access them again. Having your files and data backed up will save you time and money if you were ever to experience a ransomware attack. 

Step 5: Use secure websites

It’s always important to know you’re utilizing a secure website. As phishing attacks become more sophisticated, it can become harder to know what sites are secure and which ones are not. One thing to look out for when visiting websites is checking to see if the URL has the secure HTTPS and not just HTTP.

Step 7: Be cautious of where you click

As mentioned previously, one of the tactics used to breach your accounts is phishing. It’s important to think before clicking on a link. Check the URL to ensure that it matches the authentic website. Clicking on just any link could result in a security breach, which can ultimately lead you to a data breach. 

Step 8: Stay Informed 

Staying informed is one of the most important ways to protect yourself from security breaches. Knowing about the latest breaches will determine how fast you’re able to act if you’re a part of one. You’ll also learn about new types of attacks and ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Cybercriminals are constantly changing and evolving their tactics, so staying up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity news can help you stay safe online. 

Think of your cybersecurity safety as your home – you would never consider leaving your front door unlocked all day to allow intruders in. Your online security should be treated the same way. By keeping your applications, networks and devices secure, you’re preventing intruders from gaining access to your private and sensitive data. 

Aranza Trevino

Aranza Trevino is a contributing writer and works in marketing at Keeper Security. She is a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, majoring in marketing with a concentration in digital marketing. Aranza has gained cybersecurity industry knowledge and continues to educate readers through her blog and social media efforts.