Is data breach frequency a new normal?

With the increased frequency of data breaches over the last several years — boosted further by the mass shift to remote work in 2020 and 2021 — businesses can no longer view a breach as a hypothetical “if” scenario. In fact, many have likely already experienced some form of a cyberattack.

As we move into 2022 and beyond, data security strategies must evolve to include processes and technology that mitigate the impact of a breach when one inevitably occurs.

What’s propelling data breach frequency?

The top attack vectors nowadays are compromised credentials like business emails or easy-to-guess passwords and phishing scams. While remote work — mainly the handling of sensitive data with unsecured endpoint devices that it spurred — certainly played a key part in increasing data breach frequency, it’s not the only contributor to blame.

Human error, digital transformations — whereby companies implement software, tools, and services from third-party vendors to optimize business operations — and sophisticated attackers, with their realistic phishing emails and ever so discreet malicious codes, can all share this spotlight.

Data breach frequency by the numbers

In 2021, the average cost of a data breachPag hit a 17-year high at $4.24 million. This amount includes regulatory fines for noncompliance, loss of business from reputational damage, operational downtime for containment and recovery processes, and legal services. Broken down, the average price for a single record of personal identifiable information (PII) comes out to $180, and with the volume of PII organizations possess, it’s easy to see why data breaches rack up such a large bill.

Protecting sensitive data during a data breach to lower costs

As you can see — and were likely already aware of — there’s a lot at stake when it comes to securing data. At this point in time, data breach prevention tactics can’t be your only defense strategy, because what will happen when it fails? You also need proactive mitigation measures like compliance automation in place to ensure you’re doing everything possible to protect sensitive data as a breach occurs. In turn, this can eliminate certain risk vectors right off the bat — potentially preventing, or at least lowering the frequency of, breaches — while also significantly lessening a breach’s impact on your organization.

How compliance automation software mitigates data breach impacts

Compliance automation uses regulatory standards and an organization’s own unique security policies to apply safeguards, access controls, and typical behavior patterns to sensitive data. In terms of preventing a breach, compliance automation software does away with the need for manual handling of essential security processes like sensitive data discovery, classification, and remediation. That alone blocks a common source of breaches from entering the picture.

In terms of mitigating the impacts of a breach, automation can reduce detection time, data loss, and containment time — plus the financial repercussions all of these can have on your business — as well as regulatory fines. Without any security automation in place, the average detection time across all 2021 breaches was 287 days. Organizations with automation that quickly detected atypical behavior within data incurred significantly lower costs.

In fact, security and compliance automation tools have been shown to reduce data breach costs by up to 80%.

Breaking down compliance automation functionality

A large portion of the financial impact brought on by data breaches comes from noncompliance fines. In maintaining compliance through intelligent automation, you’re already in a solid position to defend against a data breach. But, when a breach occurs, the relevant regulatory agencies will audit its events and specifically look to ensure compliant safeguards were enacted. If so, this could diminish the penalty.

Here’s a look at the key functionality of compliance automation and how it minimizes other components that could drive your post-breach bill up:

Accurate data discovery lets you know what sensitive data you have and where it’s located, so you know which data to prioritize in your security strategy, what your risks are, which regulations you’re at the mercy of, and finally, how to secure data per your own internal policy as well as regulatory requirements.

Consistent data classification ensures that every piece of discovered data is categorized with a standardized tagging system, based on criteria like its level of sensitivity or risk and the regulations it’s subject to, so the proper security measures can be applied and enforced. This capability allows permissions to be created that only give essential personnel access to sensitive data. When a breach occurs, having a limited number of users to trace it back to can speed up detection and containment.

Active monitoring uses pre-build queries, customizable incident definitions, and machine learning to identify normal behavior patterns within files of sensitive data. This way, when atypical behavior occurs, such as a compromised account accessing sensitive data they normally wouldn’t or at unusual hours of the day, security teams can be immediately notified with detailed reporting to understand the incident and quickly respond.

Intelligent remediation safely disposes of outdated and inaccurate data per regulatory retention rules. Not only does this data’s existence violate compliance, but it’s also vulnerable to unauthorized attacks. When data is modified or otherwise compromised, automated remediation can help cut down time and costs associated with containment and remediation processes.

Be prepared for a data breach with Spirion

Curious to know what a data breach could cost your organization? Try our breach calculator tool now to understand what’s at stake and learn how much strategic data protection efforts and compliance automation tools can save you in the event of one.

Spirion’s suite of security solutions can automatically discover, classify, and remediate your sensitive data so it’s constantly secured and constantly compliant. When a data breach occurs, Spirion enables your organization to defend against and mitigate its impacts.