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Breach Detection in Cybersecurity

Breach Detection in Cybersecurity

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Last Updated March 8, 2024

Security breaches occur when an individual or group gains access to unauthorized areas of an IT system. Breaches can vary in degree of impact, and in some cases can represent simple probing for openings. However, in other cases, a security breach can compromise significant amounts of sensitive data.

In cybersecurity, detecting and mitigating security breaches is one of the primary purposes of a network firewall. In many cases, firewalls are able to prevent breaches from occurring in the first place. If security is compromised, however, firewalls help alert network administrators who can then take appropriate action.

What should you do in the event of a security breach?

Security breaches sound severe, and in some cases they are. In many cases, though, this severity is the result of a slow, unstructured response. These steps are a rough sequence on how to respond to security breaches so that their impacts can be fully understood and important data kept as safe as possible.

Evaluate impact – Begin by asking a couple questions, such as: What was the purpose of the breach? What information were intruders after and, crucially, did they manage to access and download secure information? If so, what are the immediate repercussions for the business?

Rebuild security parameters – Take a moment to change existing passwords and server access codes. The key here is to try to minimize the risk of immediate further damage and isolate the system while repairs are underway. It is better to shut down the system entirely for repair than to leave it running and risk additional damage through the defense openings.

Start to investigate causes – There is always a weakest point in system security. Despite preventative efforts by IT personnel, it only takes one employee to execute a suspicious program from an email or website.

Find out if the breach was intentional – While the breach may have been caused by an accidental file download, it could also have been caused by an employee who collaborated with the intruders. The search does not have to devolve into a witch-hunt, but administrators should keep an eye on employees to gather any ill motives.

Reinforce weak areas – Security breaches are an opportunity to learn what is not working in system security. Take a moment to assess how intruders gained access and institute greater defenses to prevent future attacks.

Educate employees – It cannot be overstated how important it is that employees understand system security and why they should not open any suspicious programs from an email. Typically, the more employees know, the lower the risk of someone slipping up and inadvertently bringing the system down.

Work with the authorities – This is generally only an issue for major breaches in large companies, but if the intrusion is significant, organizations like the Department of Homeland Security should be informed. Most major law enforcement organizations now have dedicated cyber-crime divisions that specialize in providing support for hacking victims.

Check any legal implications – Having data stolen might not just affect your company. If a partner or customer data was stolen, this may present legal issues. In such cases, contact the legal department immediately so that they can take appropriate action.

Review logs – System backups can offer information not only on the point of intrusion, but also on the state of the network before the breach. This may reveal information on what lapses contributed to the breach in the first place.

Review the state of the IT department as a whole – While the breach may have been caused deliberately or by human error, it may also have been caused by a tired, understaffed department. Breaches are an opportune time to work with managers to ensure that the IT department has the resources it needs to do its job effectively.

Improving Breach Detection

Companies can only respond to a breach if they detect it in a timely manner. Surprisingly, recent surveys suggest that organizations can take more than 200 days to detect a breach. This is an amazing and frustrating figure, and represents a clear need to improve detection methods.

Deal with excess data – It can be very easy to become overwhelmed when facing the tremendous amounts of data delivered by modern network systems. Unfortunately, this can lead to the tendency to either ignore much of the data or prioritize poorly. One way to improve breach detection is by turning on only those alerts that signify true threats, while turning off less essential alerts.

Look closely at remaining data – Thinking critically about firewall systems and actively searching for possible openings is another way to help improve detection speed. Security breaches do not occur randomly. They often occur at the weakest defense points in a security system. Network administrators should examine defense data to try to anticipate where an attack would most likely occur. Being proactive can help drastically improve response times when a breach occurs.

Learn your network – An effective security team should know the network better than the hackers who target it. It may be easy for network administrators to take their systems for granted, waiting to learn where important files are stored until the moment they are compromised. By this point, it is too late. As with the previous step, effective response times come from anticipation. By taking a strong interest in system structure and data storage before a breach occurs, companies are able to respond more quickly when attacked.

Be independent – One of the main reasons why response time can be slow is that many departments only hear about security breaches from third parties. There is a running theme in this section: The key to improving response time is to take the initiative. Do not wait for the security software developers to publish information on new threats, or for monthly summary reports to show questionable activity.

Take an interest in the world of cybersecurity. Learn about hacking attempts at other organizations and study attack trends. Examine firewall data rather than sending it off to external organizations. Share the information with other cybersecurity teams. It is through these actions that companies stand to recognize a breach in a timely manner and respond before sensitive data can be lost.

Analyzing Breach Detections

While being personally proactive is a sound strategy for approaching network security, the job can be made easier by utilizing analytics software to provide real-time analysis and advanced vulnerability detection.

When systems experience a data breach, it can be difficult to get a sense of the scale of the breach and its impact on sensitive data. This difficulty can be compounded by the fact that data breaches sometimes occur in several places of a network simultaneously, particularly if several teams of attackers coordinate to breach a network together. In such an event, it is important to determine how security response teams can get an accurate assessment of the impact and prioritize different response actions.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) technologies are a relatively new addition to the network security field and work to help alleviate the burden placed on network administrators. SIEM technologies help provide a constant stream of analytics of network status in real-time, offering the ability to immediately see the effects of security breaches, identify areas of particular vulnerability and prioritize response toward the area with the greatest potential impact.

User Behavior Analytics (UBA) technologies are another recent addition to the field. Rather than providing a blanket review of network health and determining where breaches are most likely to do damage, UBA systems analyze a user’s interaction with the system. First, UBA provides information on suspicious user activity. Second, it allows quick identification of accounts that may have had their login credentials stolen so that they might be locked town to prevent data theft or server intrusion. Together, SIEM and UBA technologies offer network administrators useful information to supplement their own system analysis.

Analytics technologies are still somewhat new additions to cybersecurity, yet they appear to hold much promise, particularly in examining the large sections of data that might tire administrators and increase the possibility of human error. That said, they are not yet at the point where they can be relied on to the exclusion of effort from the human side of a network security team. It is still important to be vigilant and use personal knowledge and experience to discover and respond to suspicious activity.

How to Limit the Damage

Security breaches can represent significant challenges for your organization, but with planning and foresight, the actual damage they do can be minimized. Proper breach detection is built around a strong knowledge of system details and a proactive mindset. To assist in detection, analytics tools can be used to keep a near-constant eye on system data and possible intrusion attempts. Ultimately, however, the most important component of breach detection and response system is often the network administrator, who, with proper care and an eye for detail, can help lessen the severity of intrusion impacts considerably.