Why are businesses at risk of data breaches more than ever?

It’s been widely reported that businesses are more at risk of suffering data breaches than ever before. But why might that be the case? Read on to find out more…

The threat of experiencing a data breach is something businesses always need to pay close attention to. However, the past year has seen the risk of data breaches increase exponentially, as various high-profile attacks have led to sensitive data being exposed.

risk of data breachesAs the data breaches list grows larger every day, businesses of all sizes, and in various sectors, are increasingly at risk. This means that identifying the reasons for this trend is increasingly important. It may prevent businesses from suffering a data breach altogether.

This post will take a closer look at why businesses are more at risk of suffering a data breach and what this could mean moving forwards. Take a look…

Reasons for an increased amount of data breaches

Companies were too slow to react to remote working

One of the most obvious reasons for an increase in the number of data breaches we are seeing stems from the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the outset of the pandemic, many businesses were caught out by the national lockdowns enforced by the government. This forced employees to begin working from home for the very first time.

While this was unfortunately unavoidable, it caused a number of issues with regards to cybersecurity. Many businesses were slow to react to the initial prospect that their workforce would be working from home. So, when the time came, employees were left scrambling to figure out how they would be able to adapt.

This has meant that many employees have been unprepared to handle an increased amount of digital data, opening up the potential for that data to be compromised.

The risk that remote working poses to businesses was further demonstrated in a 2020 survey. It revealed that 57 percent of IT decision-makers believe that remote workers will expose their firm to a data breach at some point.

Given that the pandemic has irreversibly changed the way that we will work moving forwards, many businesses have had the time to patch up those initial security issues. That said, there is no guarantee that this is the case.

Employees are less aware of their data protection obligations

The switch to remote working has meant that many employees may have had to carry out tasks that aren’t necessarily related to their usual job role. In many instances, employees who aren’t usually responsible for handling data are having to, despite not fully understanding their business’s data protection guidelines.

Larger organisations should employ a Data Protection Officer to keep the risk of data breaches to a minimum. However, it’s been found that 1 in 5 office workers said their company doesn’t have a Data Protection Officer or know that they did.

Documents are not being properly stored or disposed of

In an office environment, there will usually be procedures in place to make sure that documents containing sensitive information are properly secured and, when the time comes, disposed of appropriately.

When these procedures aren’t closely followed, the risk of a data breach will increase. As more people have been working from home, they are much less likely to pay close attention to the way documents are being stored and disposed of.

Remote workers don’t have access to the right equipment

For many people, the switch to remote working was relatively simple, as they already had a work laptop that they could simply bring home with them. However, that luxury hasn’t been afforded to everyone, as many workers weren’t in the same position, and have had to make do with a personal device.

That presents a serious data breach risk, as it’s very unlikely that a personal device will have the same level of security.

Issues have also stemmed from the misuse of work laptops. If someone doesn’t already have a personal laptop or device, it may be tempting for them to use it outside of a work context – presenting further data breach risks.

Cyber criminals taking advantage of widespread uncertainty

It’s an unavoidable truth that criminals will try to exploit a tricky situation. That much has been made abundantly clear over the past year, as cyber-criminals have used the uncertainty of the pandemic to their advantage.

Weakened security procedures and a lack of continuity between employees have provided openings for cyber-criminals. They have taken the opportunity to expose businesses to damaging data breaches.

The potential cost of a data breach – both financial and non-financial – can be devastating, especially if it’s caused by a malicious attack by a third-party. The pandemic has been a particular hotbed for phishing scams, which have used widespread uncertainty and confusion to lure in unsuspecting employees.

What’s going to happen moving forwards?

With lockdown measures set to continue in one form or another throughout 2021, it’s immediately obvious that businesses need to pay close attention to the way that they handle data security while their employees continue to work from home.

It’s been almost a year since the UK was put under a national lockdown and, since then, many businesses have taken the opportunity to improve data security measures. They’ve provided the correct equipment to employees and put effective procedures in place that cover the potential risks posed by remote working.

However, even in spite of the pandemic, the general trend has pointed towards the fact that data breaches are increasing year on year. So, it’s vital that the secure policies businesses put in place now are constantly updated and maintained. This way, the risk of a data breach occurring can be greatly reduced, preventing businesses from suffering the financial and practical repercussions.