How to Detect a Security Breach

How do you detect a security breach? An important question, because those first 48 hours could be crucial. These red flags will help you learn how to detect a data breach.

Applying the Rule of the First 48 to Your Data Breach Security Strategy

We want to talk to you about detecting homicide. It may be a strange thing to write about in a blog discussing data security, but hear us out. Specifically, we want to talk about the first 48 hours. The crucial time that a detective has in a criminal investigation.

Those first 48 hours after a homicide are crucial. If a detective doesn’t crack the case early, the chances of doing so can fall by 50%. As time passes, evidence is destroyed and the job of investigating the crime becomes more difficult. Perpetrators have disappeared in the wind.

It’s a similar case in the Emergency Room. Only here, it’s the first hour that is crucial. If emergency treatment isn’t provided to a critically ill patient immediately, the chances of surviving diminish rapidly.

So, why are we telling you this? 

Quite simply, it’s the same with a data breach. If you don’t detect it early, it could kill your company. Especially if you’re a small business:

The longer a data breach goes undetected, the more it will cost your business. Possibly, even, your company. That’s a chilling thought when 43% of SMBs don’t have any type of cybersecurity defense plans.

How can you prevent your business from being the next neglected patient in the SMB Emergency Room? 

What steps do you need to take to ensure you don’t waste those first 48 hours?

How to detect a data breach and save your business

It takes years to train as a detective, doctor, or nurse. But that training, plus experience, pays off. It provides a sixth sense ability.

A fully loaded detective will spot anomalies at the scene of a crime that others miss. A mindful medical consultant will understand the cause of a mysterious rash. 

In the prevention of data breaches, you want Columbo and House on your team. Experienced security analysts will recognize the warning signs of data breaches immediately. You can, too. Here are 10 classics, real-time signs that your network security may have been compromised.

  1. The presence of unexpected software or system processes

Strange-smelling ash in the ashtray. Footprints in the flower bed by an open window. Classic signs that a crime has been committed.

In the digital world, we look for unusual software or system processes. If your IT team doesn’t know if specific software is being installed, it’s a big clue that your IT infrastructure has been breached. These are often signs that malware has been installed on your network and then used to extract information from it.

  1. Alerts from malware protection solutions or notifications that these services have been disabled

Ah, the anonymous letter! Or the hotel cleaner who finds a door cannot be opened.

Malware is a common attack method, and often the first sign that you have been attacked. If you notice that some services have been disabled, there is a good chance that someone has already accessed your computer or network and changed the settings on these services.

  1. Repeated application or system crashes

A banging door. An electric supply that has been tampered with. A patient who returns to the Emergency Room time after time with stomach cramps.

The continual crashing of your system could be a sign that someone has hacked your network.

  1. Strange user activity 

Criminals often do things that are out of character, especially where the crime is ‘in the family’.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but one of the biggest sources of cybercrime are employees of the business that has been attacked. Yes, employee data theft is very real, so you should be on constant guard and look for records of your people logging in at weird times, from abnormal locations, or from several locations in a short period of time.

  1. An abnormally high system, network, or disk activity 

Suspects who make midnight trips when they are usually asleep. Or the brother of a victim who is rushing around, instead of mourning. Could they be trying to cover their tracks?

If you are experiencing an abnormally high system, network, or disk activity (when most applications on a computer are using more than 80% of the CPU), it’s a good chance that your computer may be infected with malware.

  1. Unusual behavior during browsing

Doorbells that don’t work. Phones that are off the hook. Lockboxes with unknown combinations to unlock.

Watch out for unusual behavior while browsing. Examples include pop-ups, redirects, or changes to browser configuration – signs that your system has been infected or that there has been a data breach on the network or computer you are browsing on.

  1. Configuration changes that cannot be traced back to an approval

Not a single fingerprint in the room where the crime was committed?

You should have a process in place for approving configuration changes. This should enable you to trace any such changes back to the person who approved them. If you can’t trace a configuration change back to the source, it’s a good sign that you’re the victim of a cyberattack.

  1. Activity on unusual network ports

The detective has put the prime suspect under surveillance, and that suspect starts acting in a strange manner. 

A network port can be described as a door that allows traffic to enter and exit the computer or server. If you notice that there is an increased number of connections to a certain port, or there is unusual activity on the port, such as the ports for SQL servers are active during off-hours, it could be an indication of a data breach.

  1. Sudden and unexpected user account lockouts, password changes, or group membership changes

The house cleaner was asked to clean the house from top to bottom, but she can’t get into the study. The door’s locked – but it never used to be.

Monitor account lockouts, password changes, and group membership changes. If any of these three things happen suddenly and unexpectedly then that might be an indication of a breach. The more occurrences there are, the more likely a security breach has occurred.

  1. Reports from contacts and/or customers that they have been receiving strange messages from you by email or social media

A message that has been sent from the victim’s email account, but login records show they weren’t logged in when it was sent.

Are your contacts reporting strange messages from you? Messages that are asking for their account or banking details? If this is the case, it sounds like your system has been compromised.

And a bonus red flag: A message from an attacker (often via ransomware)

A message from a cyber-criminal telling you that you have been attacked and that, to prevent your entire system from crashing or your data from being released to the public, you’ll need to pay a ransom. Often accompanied by small glitches or a limited time system-wide outage as proof of the attack.

How can you improve data breach detection?

The risk of data breaches is very real, but there are ways to reduce this risk. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of a data breach is by implementing a strong, proactive security policy, which includes implementation of the following data breach detection strategies and secure protocols:

  • Get the right cybersecurity expertise

The best way to improve data breach detection is by hiring security professionals and security teams who can identify where data is being leaked and prevent it from happening again. Hiring cybersecurity experts will allow organizations to keep their data safe and avoid future problems with data breaches. You want Columbo on your side, not Mr. Bean.

  • Stay up to date with cybercrime evolution and threat intelligence

Protective strategies, rules, and regulations are continually evolving. So, too, are the methods and sophistication with which cyber-criminals act. Stay up to date with the latest trends in cyber security. This will help you identify new threats and provide better protection for your company’s data.

  • Implement ongoing training

Often overlooked, it is crucial to train employees to better understand and detect potential security breaches, and to know what to do if a potential breach occurs. Employee security training is one of the nine best ways to protect company data.

  • Perform real-time monitoring of all major portions of the enterprise

Continuous and real-time monitoring for any signs of intrusion or malware using breach detection tools is essential. It is also important to scan all your files for any signs of tampering, run integrity checks on all your files, and scan all your databases for malicious activity ─ including suspicious employee activity.

  • Be proactive

Proactively assess your vulnerabilities and identify any areas where you need to improve your security measures. This includes implementing systems that will help you monitor all your IT assets, control access to sensitive information, and identify risks before they become a problem, including weak points in your systems, security planning, infrastructure, etc.

  • Prioritize alerts

Alerts are especially important in detecting data breaches, as they are a sign of potential danger and can be used to take action before it’s too late. Alerts should be prioritized for security incidents and turned on for ones that indicate a true threat and turned off for ones that don’t. Breach reports will become more meaningful when you use this tactic.

  • Know your network better than potential hackers

It’s crucial to know your network and its vulnerabilities better than potential hackers. This means understanding how each system within your network works and how it interacts with other systems. This will help you identify any vulnerabilities within your system before hackers exploit them.

  • Be independent

To improve data breach detection, you should not wait to hear about security breaches from third parties. You should be independent and monitor your own systems for potential threats – don’t wait to hear about them from third parties and customers.

Your company can use intrusion detection systems, intrusion prevention systems, and other methods that help detect malware or suspicious activity on their networks. For example, you can find out if you have any vulnerabilities with a penetration test, which is a simulated hack that should tell you where your weaknesses are. 

You should also use an external security service provider that monitors your network to detect any potential threats before they become a problem.

Make the first 48 hours count

The amount of time it takes to detect a breach or cyber threat is critical. Longer detection times mean more impact and higher costs. On average, it takes organizations 206 days to detect data breaches, and 73 days to contain them.

To protect against damage with a fast response, knowing the signs of a security breach is crucial. Implementing security protection and data breach prevention strategies will help to reduce your risk.

Is your business at risk?

Contact Millennium Tech today, and discover if your business is properly protected against security risks, and protected should a data breach occur.

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