6 Proven Expert Tips for Data Breach Prevention


There’s little doubt that data breaches are continuous challenge for businesses and consumers. In contrast to the growth of previous years, according to a report from the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 1108 data breaches in 2020, down 19% compared to 2019. This looks promising, however, let’s not forget how a major data breach can leave the personal information (such as credit card numbers, phone numbers or social security numbers) of millions of consumers exposed and vulnerable — in 2020 this meant 300,562,519 individuals, still a significant number.

Large enterprises and software companies must understand how they can protect their businesses by preventing data breaches and other cybersecurity threats. We’ll help explain more about PCI compliance, network security, and offer you a data breach prevention plan to avoid data loss or theft in the future.

How do data breaches occur?

Data leaks occur when a criminal hacker or entity gains unauthorized access to a system containing sensitive or protected information. The sensitive data could be any identifiable information, ranging from a debit card number to healthcare records. The breaches are usually a consequence of lax security, system glitches or human error.

6 proven expert tips for data breach prevention

The PCI SSC (Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council) recommends six ‘security milestones’ as a basis to help organizations and merchants stay protected from data breaches. With this data breach prevention plan, you will be able to successfully support your fight against data theft.

1. Remove sensitive authentication data and limit data retention.

If your organization doesn't require the data, then reduce the risk of a breach by choosing not to store it.

2. Protect systems and networks, and have a data breach response plan.

Put controls in place for points of access, and have a process in place to respond to a data breach.

3. Secure payment card applications.

Ensure any applications meet stringent security requirements, as weaknesses allow hackers to compromise systems and access sensitive data.

4. Monitor and control access to your systems.

Identify who is using your payment network, including the actions they are authorized to perform.

5. Protect stored cardholder data.

Implement protection mechanisms such as tokenization to anonymize identifiable or sensitive information.

6. Finalize remaining compliance efforts.

Complete PCI DSS requirements and confirm all related policies and procedures required to protect cardholder data.

Following one of these steps in isolation will not provide the comprehensive security required to protect organizations from data breaches, but taking the milestones in their entirety provides a strategy and roadmap in efforts to maintain high levels of data security.

How can my software business stay protected from a data breach?

There are rules put in place by credit card brands to help businesses in the fight for data protection.

Observing the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) is something any business accepting credit cards must do, or they could face fines - or worse, a data breach. The average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million, with the United States continuing to experience the highest data breach costs in the world, at $8.64 million on average.

There are 12 main requirements for securing cardholder data that is stored, processed and/ or transmitted by merchants and other organizations, detailed by the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) here. This guide can be used by those that undergo an on-site assessment or use the Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ-D).

Furthermore, networks can be built with security in mind from the start, so it’s important to think about segmentation right off the bat. Segmenting your networks will keep them from talking to each other, so that if a criminal hacker is successful in getting access to one segment of your network, keeping it separate from other segments will help keep them protected. This will reduce your PCI audit scope.

If you have any doubt about navigating PCI compliance, there are qualified security assessors (QSA) who can help you understand the complex and ever-changing protocols. These QSAs are trained by the PCI SSC to help conduct assessments on how to handle credit card data. They can help with even the biggest compliance requirements to ensure you stay protected.

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