Data Breach

Data Breach Defence: 5 Steps to Secure Your Business

Geraldine Strawbridge


Data breaches are more than just a headline, they’re a significant threat to businesses of all sizes, making preventative measures a necessity, not an option.

The numbers paint a worrying picture. In 2023, a staggering 71% of Irish businesses experienced at least one cyber attack, and experts predict that by 2026, half of all organisations globally will have experienced a breach.

While we tend to think it’s just the larger corporations getting hit, the truth is smaller and medium-sized businesses are increasingly being targeted. This is because they typically have less money and resources to invest in cybersecurity, making them easy prey for attackers.

If businesses suffer a breach, the consequences can be devastating. Beyond the immediate financial losses and reputational damage, the longer-term effects can be crippling. In fact, it’s estimated that 60% of small companies will go out of business six months after a data breach or cyber attack.

With so much at stake, companies need to take every measure they can to ensure they’re protected against data breaches.

How do Data Breaches Happen?

A data breach occurs when an unauthorised individual gains access to confidential or protected information. Breaches can happen in a variety of ways, but some of the most common methods include:

  • Hacking: Hackers will use various methods to infiltrate computer systems and steal data. This could involve things like phishing emails to trick employees into giving up passwords or finding vulnerabilities in software.
  • Malware: Malicious software, like viruses or ransomware, can be used to steal data or lock it away until a ransom is paid.
  • Insider threats: Sometimes a data breach can be caused by someone on the inside, like a disgruntled employee, who steals or leaks data.
  • Physical loss or theft: If unencrypted laptops, hard drives, or even paper files containing sensitive information are lost or stolen, it can result in a breach.
  • Accidental exposure: Human error can also play a part. For example, an employee might accidentally send an email with sensitive data to the wrong person.

5 Best Practices to Prevent a Data Breach

Whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise, you must protect your data. While there’s no foolproof way to secure all of your sensitive information, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk:

1. Regular Audits & Risk Assessments

Regular security audits and risk assessments are critical in the fight against data breaches. These proactive measures act as an early warning system, helping identify vulnerabilities in your systems, access controls, and employee behaviour. By pinpointing weaknesses before they’re exploited, you can prioritise security investments and implement stronger safeguards.

2. Educate Your Employees

Employees are often the first line of defence against data breaches. While investing heavily in security measures is essential, it’s useless if a single click gives attackers access to your network. Phishing emails, malicious attachments, and social engineering tactics can all trick even the most cautious employee into compromising data. Regular cybersecurity awareness training will educate staff on evolving threats that pose a risk to your business. Training should include topics like password security, phishing awareness, data handling procedures and how to report suspicious activity.  For maximum impact, training can be tailored to address the specific threats faced by each department. For example, your Finance department might encounter different phishing scams to HR, so the training should reflect these real-life scenarios.

Data Breach Defence Staff Training

3. Prioritise Software Updates

Software vulnerabilities are a favoured entry point for hackers. These weaknesses can be exploited to infiltrate systems, steal data, and disrupt operations. This is exactly how cybercriminals pulled off some of the biggest cyber attacks in recent history. In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack crippled hospitals and businesses worldwide by exploiting an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Similarly, the Equifax breach exposed the personal data of 145 million Americans due to their failure to address a known software weakness. By promptly installing security updates, you can patch these vulnerabilities and significantly reduce the risk of hackers taking advantage of weak spots in your defences.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can add a powerful layer of defence against data breaches. Unlike traditional passwords, MFA requires users to provide additional verification factors, such as a code from their phone or a fingerprint. This makes it significantly harder for hackers to gain access to your systems even if they steal a password through phishing or other attack methods. By adding these additional layers, MFA can reduce the risk of unauthorised login attempts and prevent sensitive company data from falling into the wrong hands.

5. Strict Access Control

Even with the best defences, breaches can happen. But with strong access controls, the damage can be contained. For example, hackers might only be able to access a specific data set, instead of the entire network. Access to sensitive company data should be restricted on a “need-to-know” basis. Essentially, this means that employees should only have the minimum level of access needed to perform their jobs. This ensures that only authorised staff can see sensitive information, reducing the risk of outsiders or even curious colleagues accidentally stumbling upon confidential data.

Reducing the Risk of a Breach

By following the above steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of a data breach and protect your company’s valuable information. Remember, data security is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix. You should regularly review and update your security measures to stay ahead of evolving threats.

If your business lacks the internal resources or expertise to implement these best practices, it may be time to consider partnering with a Managed Services Provider. At Ortus, we have extensive experience helping businesses keep their systems safe and secure. Using advanced security solutions and round-the-clock monitoring and detection, we make sure everything runs smoothly for our clients, so they don’t have to worry about downtime or security breaches. To find out how we can help protect your business, get in touch today.