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14 Mistakes That Can Lead to Data Breaches – and How to Avoid Them

Last updated: December 6, 2023 11 min read
Data Breaches

A data breach can result in sensitive data and, in some instances, financial loss. Although you cannot wholly prevent cybercrime, you can secure your device and data by following these steps. This article will discuss the consequences of data breaches and how to prevent them. Maintain constant security awareness, and pay close attention to the protocol channel you employ to maintain its security.

Just as everything has pros and disadvantages, the benefits of the internet are overwhelming. However, with the internet comes a danger of data breaches, hacking, identity theft, and many types of fraud.

Every day, an individual or organization experiences a cyber-attack using numerous operating tactics. In August 2015, the University of Michigan reported losing three of its Facebook accounts due to hacking, suggesting that even corporate organizations can be victims of these operations.

Although cyberspace is dynamic, new operating tactics, as do fraud and hacker activities, emerge daily. As a result, it is critical to safeguard your identity and protect yourself from the operations of unscrupulous elements.

This post will examine 14 of the most typical security mistakes that can get your data hacked and how to avoid them. But first, let’s define a data breach and the types of Information one can lose during a data breach.

What Exactly is a Data Breach?

A data breach, as defined by the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), is any security incident that leads to unauthorized access to protected information. A data breach is a circumstance where someone who is not authorized will have access to sensitive data.

Put this way, a data breach is the loss or leak of sensitive information by an individual or organization. A data breach can happen physically by accessing a computer or remotely circumventing the device’s network security.

Types of Data Exposed in a Data Breach

Various sorts of information can leak due to a data breach, the most prevalent of which is Personally Identifiable Information (PII). A hacker can use somebody’s personal information, such as social security numbers, identity card details, and so on, to impersonate such a person and commit fraud.

A data breach can cause financial information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, tax forms, invoices, and financial statements to leak. This data leak can impact individuals and businesses, leading to financial losses.

In addition, Medical or Personal Health Information (PHI) might reveal information about someone’s health status. PHI can comprise information on someone’s past, present, or future physical and mental health, which ought to be private. 

Intellectual property and sensitive information might also leak due to a data breach. This information could include firm patents, trade secrets, blueprints, customer lists, contracts, and other sensitive papers.

Common Mistakes that Can Lead to Data Breaches

1. Lack of an Antivirus or Anti-malware Program

Installing a competent antivirus or anti-malware program on your device is one of the first measures to prevent online hacks. Various services are available to safeguard your device from rogue URLs, malware, and other online risks.

Many operating systems, such as Windows, have free antivirus software (Windows Defender); nevertheless, some users go the extra mile by installing a third-party antivirus to provide complete security.

Antivirus software protects computers and mobile devices from malicious programs such as malware. A good antivirus program can identify, neutralize, and remove malware from your devices in advance.

An antivirus software continuously checks our devices for unusual behavior, allowing it to detect threats that should not be in the database. With these characteristics, it will see a hacker’s virus, prevent it from accessing your data, and remove it from your device.

2. Using HTTP Instead of HTTPS

Many must know the distinction between these two hypertext transfer protocols, HTTP and HTTPS. People need to take notice of their differences to avoid exposing websites to unsecured protocols.

The “S” in HTTPS will require the hypertext protocol to use the secure sockets layer (SSL) to encrypt and transport your data more securely. Sites not using HTTPS may expose your data to anyone monitoring their traffic, potentially leading to data breaches or hacking.

However, some programs can force your website to use secure routes for better encryption and data safety. If you want additional security to your internet connection, consider using a top-notch VPN like ExtremeVPN.

3. Not Encrypting Your Device’s Data

According to Johns Hopkins University, device encryption provides a higher level of security than passwords in protecting your device’s data from unauthorized access. Furthermore, when an unauthorized person tries to access the device, it converts all user data into unreadable codes.

It is crucial to understand that device encryption and password setting are different. Although both require a password, device encryption is a more sophisticated step that prevents unauthorized access to the data on your device.

Setting a password on your devices is an excellent first step, but matching it with device encryption is the best approach to protect your data in case you lose your device. Most Android and iOS devices include encryption software, while Windows and Mac both support it.

4. Using Free Public Wifi Without a VPN

An opportunity to use public wifi safely is a good reason we recommend employing additional security to your device. ExtremeVPN is such an efficient and effective VPN suitable for situations like this.

Because not everyone can resist the impulse to connect to public wifi, especially when it is free, you must protect your device appropriately because most public wifi networks are rarely secure. Public wifi frequently lacks sufficient security standards, exposing you to man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks or wifi sniffing.

The MITM attack is where hackers access your browser history and obtain sensitive information about you.

However, using ExtremeVPN will protect your device and encrypt your identity, making it impossible for a hacker to attack you or sniff your data successfully.

5. When not in Use, Ensure Your Device’s Connectivity is Off

Device connectivity, such as Bluetooth and AirDrop networks, should be off when not in use. The idea of turning it off is because hackers can use it to gain control of your data by connecting a device to your device’s Bluetooth. In addition to improving your device’s battery life, turning off Bluetooth is a necessary security precaution.

Furthermore, when connecting USB or flash drives to your device, be cautious because malware can penetrate your system via such devices. Because one bad drive might destroy your entire system, don’t use it if you don’t trust it. Always scan your device for viruses and other dangerous apps regularly to keep it safe.

6. Avoiding Software Updates

Updating your software is crucial since it improves existing functions, closes security flaws, and provides new security features. In response to known security vulnerabilities, developers offer software upgrades to correct bugs and improve device performance.

As a result, if you run outdated app versions, you risk your data. We recommend allowing these applications to update themselves automatically to remove the chances of missing any updates.

Clicking links from suspicious sources can expose your sensitive information to hackers, commonly known as Phishing. It happens when a hacker disguises as a trustworthy entity and tricks a victim into its trap by clicking a URL, either by instant message or text message, exposing their sensitive data.

Phishing is one of the most successful methods for hackers to breach your security since it requires the victim to provide these vital details voluntarily. Phishing is the strategy used in the infamous 2016 hack of the US Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the University of Michigan attack mentioned above.

As a result, keep an eye out for messages or emails from unknown or untrustworthy people that urge you to open a link or download an application. Such URLs or attachments could be malware disguised, infiltrating your device from within and revealing your personal information. 

Also, watch out for social messages that ask for similar things; they use various strategies, such as asking you to click on a link to obtain large sums of money or beautiful rewards, and so on. It is also vital to remember that the message may originate from a hacker masquerading as someone you know; therefore, contacting the person to confirm they sent the message is critical.

8. Using the Same Password Several Times

While it may be handy for you to use the same password for all your accounts, consider how convenient it will be for a hacker who manages to crack the password.

It implies that cracking one password can lead to access to all your accounts, which is unsafe for your privacy or personal data. We recommend using a strong password for each account you own and control. This strong password will strengthen your internet security and protect your critical information.

Remembering dozens of passwords can be difficult for some people, so we recommend utilizing a trustworthy and encrypted password manager.

9. Using Unencrypted Communication Methods

Many people fall victim to these hackers online because they do not pay close attention to the electronic channel of communication they utilize. The Snowden revelations in 2013 revealed that most of our electronic communication methods, including phone conversations, SMS, and emails, are subject to mass surveillance.

This third-party surveillance occurs when the communication channel lacks end-to-end encryption, allowing a third party to listen to your private discussions. As a result, you should trust applications with end-to-end encryption as your means of communication to ensure that no third party except the intended recipient can access your message.

10. Failure to Enable Two-factor Authentication

Even if a hacker discovers your password, a two-factor authentication (2FA) could prevent them from accessing your account. Any login to your account with 2FA enabled will require your account ID, password, and a unique code, usually issued by an app on your phone.

(Note: According to the current Reddit attack, 2FA that relies on SMS is still insecure.) The best way to secure your data is to use a robust and unique password with software or token 2FA.

11. Lack of Screen Lock or Password

Because a hacker can install malware on your device when you are not paying attention, physically protecting your gadget is just as vital as protecting it online. Since one can move around with these gadgets, they are vulnerable to intruders gaining access. These invaders could be your buddies who want to check out your phone.

Furthermore, if you take the gadget for repairs, it is vulnerable to manipulation, especially when no password exists. As a result, never leave your device unattended, and make sure you set a password to prevent hackers from installing malware on your computer.

If you save passwords in a browser, you must take this point more seriously and ensure that no one has unauthorized access to your device. Because a hacker only needs to browse the same websites you do to access any websites where you have saved your password quickly.

This method is quite risky, especially if you’re doing it to log into your bank, personal email, or anything else that may contain important information.

12. Turning Off User Account Control Features

Some people find the notifications accompanying User Accounts annoying and, as a result, turn off the function, oblivious to the security implications. Windows User Account Control (UAC) capabilities, for example, notify you when your device is undergoing modifications.

This notice is critical since it informs you when an update is necessary, which app is malfunctioning, etc. If you turn off notifications, you will be completely uninformed of what is happening on your device.

Hackers can modify your computer without your awareness, gaining access to your essential data. As a result, even if you find the User Account notification feature annoying, you are not recommended to deactivate it. It is beneficial to the overall security of your device.

13. Unwanted Software Downloads

You may have encountered a pop-up warning while perusing the internet that your PC is at risk unless you instantly download free antivirus software. Hackers use this tactic to induce you to download files that will allow them to hack your device from within.

When you install this software inadvertently, thinking it’s a virus-scanning program to help you guard against online threats, it immediately prevents your computer from running legitimate antivirus solutions. And before you know it, your device will begin to hang and malfunction.

Update your antivirus software, and using a pop-up blocker to prevent harmful URLs from displaying on your screen is an effective way to avoid data breaches.

14. Revealing too Much Information on Social Media

This point is one of the most overlooked mistakes that can get your data hacked; hackers can learn much about a potential victim from the person’s social media account. A hacker can use this information to reset passwords, apply for credit cards, or send more convincing phishing emails.

It would help if you learned not to post content containing information such as family members’ names (particularly your mother’s maiden name), date of birth, where you were born, and where you went to college. Also, posts containing pet names, old or current addresses, and details on daily routines, among other things.

Furthermore, set your social media accounts to private so only your friends can view your profile.

Consequences of Data Breach

Aside from financial loss, there are a variety of other dangers associated with data breaches, which is why both people and corporate bodies must work to prevent a data breach. A data breach can sometimes result in financial loss, reputational harm, operational downtime, and the loss of sensitive data, to name a few effects.

Individuals affected by the company’s data leak are increasingly taking legal action against them. These persons may also seek monetary compensation for losing their exposed data. For instance, Equifax has given out over $700 million in compensation to consumers affected by its 2017 data hack, which involved over 145 million people globally.

Final words

They say information is power; therefore, sticking to these 14 mistakes to avoid in order to keep hackers at bay will benefit you. In addition, we highlighted several security features that people frequently take for granted.

One example is the distinction between HTTP and HTTPS, which we have brought to your attention to always look out for HTTPS as it is the more secure protocol channel. Although there is no 100% effective approach to avoid cybercrime because the world of technology is dynamic, following the principles presented here will ensure your device is safe.

FAQs

Is it necessary for a data breach to result in a financial loss?
No! In some circumstances, data breaches result in financial losses, yet, in others, they can result in the disclosure of confidential and sensitive documents. Company secrets, for example, can leak to competitors who will utilize the information to their advantage.
Is using public wifi a recipe for a data breach?
Using public wifi is a good idea; however, using public wifi without any security is extremely dangerous. While using public networks, we recommend using a top-notch VPN service like ExtremeVPN.
How can I avoid a data breach?
Although some corporations have fallen victim to data breaches in the past, data breach is not uncontainable. We can assure you that if you follow our instructions, you will avoid a data breach.

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About the Author

Samuel is a freelance journalist with over a decade's experience in the VPN industry and digital mar...

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