According to a recent report by IT Governance, there were over 70 data breaches in June 2023 alone–accounting for compromising over 14 million data records. Once these records are out in the open, they are often sold on the dark web. Following that, it’s just a matter of time before hackers can use this data to breach accounts and hack into larger systems.
Unfortunately, data breaches can happen through several attacks–social engineering, identity compromise, or direct threats to applications and infrastructure.
Here, we will talk about what it means to stay ahead of potential data breaches. It takes a comprehensive approach to threat detection and prevention across several levels of security, none of which are more or less important than the other.
What Should an Organization Focus on to Prevent Data Breaches?
There isn’t a “silver bullet” to help prevent data breaches. In the broadest sense, it’s all about maintaining best security practices and compliance with mandatory regulations and optional frameworks. These best practices will touch on everything from networks to hardware, apps to devices, and an entire range of organizational processes covering cybersecurity and development.
That being said, there are a few specific areas we can highlight here that bear some special attention:
Network security involves a combination of multiple layers of defenses at the edge and in the network. Each layer implements controls and policies to prevent threats from entering or spreading on your network. When applied effectively, these measures should prevent significant unauthorized access, exploitation, and potential damage.
Some steps your organization can take to secure your network against breaches include:
- Firewalls: A firewall is the first line of defense in network security. Next-generation firewalls offer features beyond traditional firewalls, such as intrusion prevention systems (IPS), application control, and user identity tracking.
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): An IDS is designed to detect and alert potential intrusions into the network. An IPS, on the other hand, not only detects but also prevents known threats. IDS and IPS technologies identify potential threats using signatures, anomalies, and other methods.
- Network Access Control (NAC) Systems: NAC solutions control access to the network based on a device’s compliance with policy. For example, they can check whether a device has installed the latest security patches and antivirus definitions before granting access. NAC is beneficial in large organizations where many devices, including personal and IoT devices, may attempt to connect to the corporate network.
- Network Traffic Analysis: Monitoring and analyzing network traffic can identify potential threats before they become incidents. Anomalies in network traffic can be signs of a data breach, a compromised device, or a misconfigured system. Tools for network traffic analysis need to scale to handle the volumes of traffic seen in large enterprises.
The complexity of network security in a large enterprise means it’s not a “set it and forget it” operation. Regular testing, tuning, and updates are necessary, and the situation needs constant monitoring. By doing so, organizations can drastically reduce the likelihood of data breaches.
Like network security, perimeter security involves controlling who moves in and out of critical areas. The difference is that “perimeter” can mean many different things in a cybersecurity sense. In fact, the idea of a flexible perimeter is crucial to cybersecurity, where additional resources require different levels of protection and monitoring.
Some examples of perimeter security include:
- Network Segmentation: Dividing a network into smaller parts can prevent attackers from accessing the entire network if they compromise one segment. Each segment can have its security controls and policies. This is particularly useful in large organizations where different departments or roles may require different access rights.
- Demilitarized Zones (DMZs): A DMZ is a physical or logical subnetwork containing an organization’s external-facing services to a more extensive, untrusted network, usually the Internet.
- Secure VPN Access: VPNs provide a secure, encrypted connection, or tunnel, over the Internet between a remote user and a private enterprise network. This prevents interception of data in transit and safeguards your network from unauthorized access.
- Deep Packet Inspection (DPI): DPI examines the data part (and possibly also the header) of a packet as it passes an inspection point, searching for protocol non-compliance, intrusions, spam, viruses, or defined criteria to decide whether the packet may pass or if it needs further inspection.
- Firewall Configuration and Management: Firewalls are crucial for perimeter security. They should be correctly configured and regularly updated to provide the best possible defense. This includes implementing proper rules and ensuring that the firewall is not the single point of failure.
Additionally, network security measures like IDS/IPS and access control can be critical parts of perimeter security.
Application Security refers to securing applications by finding, fixing, and preventing security vulnerabilities. Unlike front-end security (for example, exploits involving web browsers or input fields), app security involves ensuring that code and APIs can resist threats that could allow attackers access to unauthorized data used by the application.
Some examples of application security include:
- Secure Coding Practices: This is the first line of defense in application security. It involves practices such as input validation, output encoding, and error handling. A secure software development lifecycle (SSDLC) helps integrate these practices into the development process.
- Regular Security Testing: This includes Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST), Static Application Security Testing (SAST), and Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST). DAST tests the application in its running state and is usually performed as a black-box test. SAST, often referred to as white-box testing, analyzes an application’s source code, bytecode or binary code for security vulnerabilities. IAST combines elements of both, providing real-time vulnerability assessment.
- Penetration Testing: Penetration testing, or ethical hacking, involves simulating an attack on your application to discover vulnerabilities. It’s crucial in large enterprises, as even a single overlooked exposure could lead to a significant breach.
- Vulnerability Scanning and Patch Management: Regularly scanning applications for known vulnerabilities and promptly applying patches can prevent many potential breaches. It’s essential in large enterprises where the scale and complexity of the application landscape can make manual vulnerability management impractical.
- API Security: APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are often overlooked in security, but they can provide an attacker with a route into your systems. API security involves securing API endpoints from both malicious attacks and unauthorized access.
Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM)
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is a set of tools and services offering a holistic view of an organization’s information security. It collects and aggregates log data generated throughout the organization’s technology infrastructure, from network devices to the endpoint and user activities, into a centralized platform. This data is then used to identify and respond to threats and anomalies. Here’s an in-depth look:
- Log Collection and Management: SIEM solutions collect and manage logs from various sources across an organization, providing a centralized platform for log management. Given the large scale of log data in enterprise organizations, efficient log management is crucial.
- Real-time Threat Detection and Alerts: SIEM provides real-time analysis of event data for early detection of security incidents and threats. The system can be set to trigger alerts based on predefined rules or unusual activity.
- Forensic Analysis: SIEM tools offer the ability to conduct forensic analysis of historical data for a detailed investigation of the incidents. This can help understand how a breach occurred and plan future prevention strategies.
- Incident Response: Some SIEM tools offer automated actions that can quickly contain a threat or reduce its impact. This could include automatically blocking an IP address or disabling a user account in response to detected threats.
- Compliance Reporting: Many organizations are subject to regulations that require them to collect, analyze, and store logs for an extended period. SIEM can automate the generation of compliance reports and provide the audit trail required by various standards.
Implementing a SIEM solution effectively in a large enterprise requires careful planning and configuration to ensure the right data is captured, analyzed, and acted upon.
Incident Response and Mitigation
The importance of incident response cannot be overstated–it is the very heart of what happens when a data breach potentially occurs. An Incident Response plan aims to handle the situation in a way that limits damage and reduces recovery time and costs.
Some of the most important parts of incident response include:
- Incident Response Planning: This creates a preparedness plan for managing and recovering from security incidents. It lays out the roles and responsibilities within the team, details the steps to be taken when an incident is detected, and guides communication and decision-making.
- Threat Intelligence: It involves using information about existing threats to inform the incident response process. By understanding what you’re up against, you can tailor your response more effectively and potentially reduce the impact of incidents.
- Incident Detection and Analysis: Once an incident has occurred, it must be detected and analyzed to determine the appropriate response. This involves using SIEM, intrusion detection, and other security tools to identify and assess incidents.
- Containment, Eradication, and Recovery: Once an incident is detected and analyzed, steps must be taken to contain it, eradicate any threats, and recover systems and data. This is the ‘active response’ phase of the incident response process.
- Post-Incident Activity: Any incident should be analyzed after the fact, incorporating key data and metrics so that plans can be made to mitigate future issues. This should include thorough reviews and modeling of what went wrong.
Work With a Comprehensive Security Solution in Continuum GRC
We’ve covered a few key areas but so many more. From identity management to training and education and configuration management, an organization will have any number of requirements in place to prevent breaches. The best way to tackle this issue is with a comprehensive cloud solution that can help you track compliance, security, and risk all in one place.
Continuum GRC is a cloud platform that can take something as routine and necessary as regular vulnerability scanning and reporting under FedRAMP and make it an easy and timely part of business in the public sector. We provide risk management and compliance support for every major regulation and compliance framework on the market, including:
- NIST 800-53
- FARS NIST 800-171
- SOC 1, SOC 2
- PCI DSS 4.0
- IRS 1075
- COSO SOX
- ISO 27000 Series
- ISO 9000 Series
And more. We are the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized compliance and risk management solution worldwide.
Continuum GRC is a proactive cyber security® and the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized cybersecurity audit platform worldwide. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.