In the past few years, data has become an integral part of negotiations between cybercriminals and their victims. To obtain the data, cybercriminals have honed the methods they use to penetrate into networks. Unfortunately, not many veterinary practices are equipped with cybersecurity expertise to prevent such data breaches, which has made it easier for them to become among the most targeted groups. In this section, we will dive into what a data breach is and how we can better protect our networks.
What is a Data Breach?
A data breach occurs when an unauthorized user is able to circumvent cybersecurity measures and access confidential, sensitive, or protected areas of a system. The user responsible for a data breach could be a real person such as a cybercriminal, an automated program that is able to circumvent the systems, or a self-directing program such as a virus or malware.
A data breach can be the result of either intentional or unintentional actions. In cases where the data breach is done intentionally, there is a high chance that a cybercriminal is behind the act. The motivation for an intentional data breach also varies from one cybercriminal to the other, with the most common reasons being:
- Utilizing computer resources: This is when a cybercriminal compromises a computer system to use its resources, such as its high processing power. The common type of attack in this category is cryptojacking attacks, which involve cybercriminals using their victim’s computer resources to mine cryptocurrencies.
- Gain access to secure information: This type of attack involves cybercriminals accessing a system with the sole intention of researching the type of data stored on the network. Some of the information that these cybercriminals may be searching for may include social security numbers, credit card, and banking information, addresses, and sensitive data that they can use to blackmail their victims.
- Crashing the network: Some cybercriminals launch a cyberattack with the sole intent of crashing a network. These types of cybercriminals attempt to use lateral movement in a network to access unauthorized data and protected areas of a network. Once they have achieved this goal, they then attempt to bring down the entire network.
- Political reasons: Although veterinary practices are unlikely to experience this type of data breach whose sole motivation is political, there are many instances where a data breach is a result of political motivation. There are also many hacktivists whose goal is to compromise systems they deem do not advance their political agenda.
Types of Data Breaches
There are seven types of data breaches that you should expect as a veterinary practice. These types include:
- Insider Threat: This is among the most common types of data breaches, and involves someone with access to the inner workings of your network. Among the most common people who can be involved in this type of attack are your staff or IT third-party vendors that interact with your network.
- Hacking and intrusion: There is a high likelihood of cybercriminals hacking your systems. Methods such as phishing, scams, ransomware, brute force attacks, viruses, and password compromise fall under this category.
- Using portable devices: USBs, hard drives, and backup tapes can be used to copy unauthorized data and transfer it out of your veterinary practice. This type of data breach can involve insider threats, who are tasked with compromising your system and copying the data. However, it can also involve guests who visit your practice and are allowed to use your network.
- Physical theft: Data breaches can also occur through theft. This is when computers or parts of a network system are physically removed from their location. These devices may contain unauthorized data which can be used to compromise your veterinary practice.
- Internet Exposure: With many veterinary practices migrating to cloud services, the chances of getting compromised and the data getting exposed on the internet have increased. Internet exposure presents another challenge for practices, where cybercriminals are able to breach data through man-in-the-middle cyber attacks or through accidental data leakage.
- Human Error: Humans remain the weakest link in a computer network. Chances are your next data breach will result from a staff failing to do due diligence and exposing the data to would be cybercriminals.
- Weak Access Control: Weak passwords, poorly monitored admin privileges, and lack of user segmentation can result in your system getting compromised and your data getting exposed to unauthorized users.
Preparing for a Data Breach
To protect your veterinary practice from a data breach, you need to put in place the best preventive measures possible. This can be achieved by using methods such as:
- Adding an Intrusion System: Most data breaches remain undetected for months. Cybercriminals are able to monitor any changes in the system and extract updated information in real time. The best way to prevent a data breach is by adding a data intrusion detection system The system is able to flag any unauthorized access to the system. The system can also help in keeping your system safe by locking cybercriminals out of your computer system.
- Audit IT Assets: One of the best ways to stay ahead of cybercriminals is to know all the devices connected to the network. This can help in detecting additional devices and flagging them, thereby preventing an intrusion.
- Creating an Intrusion Response Plan: Even after implementing all data breach prevention measures, there is a high likelihood of your system getting compromised. Therefore, it is important to have a good incident plan that outlines what each person is supposed to do in case of a data breach in your veterinary practice.
- Data Backup: Data breaches can be used to alter your original data. Therefore, it is important to keep an updated backup of your data in case your network is compromised. The backup can also help you get your system back fast after getting compromised. Data backups also come in handy as a disaster recovery plan.
- Perform Frequent Penetration Testing: If you store highly sensitive data in your computer system, then it is important to conduct regular penetration tests to see how safe and secure your network is.