Why Data Breach Detection is Crucial for Data Security

When a data breach occurs, time is of the essence. On one level, modern compliance laws and regulations have set standards for the window of reporting data breaches, often requiring organizations to do so within 72 hours to avoid penalization. But monetary and legal penalties are not the most important outcomes of a data breach.

The most crucial part of an organization’s response is the safety of its customers. In the end, it is their personal information that may have been involuntarily shared, and it is their trust and security that have been violated. Given the increased awareness and scrutiny of data privacy and security, these kinds of breaches can cause irreparable damage to not only customers themselves but also their faith in and willingness to engage with an organization.

This is why data breach detection is crucial to data security in the modern era. The faster your security team can become aware of a breach event, the quicker they can organize and operationalize an effective response.

What is a Data Breach?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines a data breach as:

“An incident that involves sensitive, protected, or confidential information being copied, transmitted, viewed, stolen, or used by an individual unauthorized to do so.”

NIST also notes that examples of exposed information can range from social security numbers to credit card data and other sensitive data like personally identifiable information (PII) and personal health information (PHI). If accessed and combined logically, these types of sensitive information could inadvertently lead to the re-identification of an individual, which puts this person at increased risk. Essentially, any private data that has been compromised by unauthorized disclosure constitutes a data breach.

While data breaches are by no means a new phenomenon, they have only become more frequent as increased sensitive data use broadens the surface area for risk and bad actors become increasingly advanced in their tactics. In 2022, 1,802 significant data breaches, leaks, or incidents of unauthorized exposure were recorded (Statista 2023). These compromising events affected over 422 million individuals whose sensitive data became available to bad actors.

Besides placing customer data at risk and negatively impacting brand reputation, data breaches can have many other detrimental effects on an organization. They can lead to discordance within leadership teams, impact the ability to hire new employees, result in lengthy and significant legal penalties, and bring about substantial monetary fines.

With a range of harmful effects and increasing frequency, it’s no wonder why data breaches should be proactively mitigated. But how can this be ingrained into data security?

What is Data Breach Detection?

When an event such as a leak or breach occurs, it’s important that teams are alerted as quickly as possible. Each passing moment that the issue is not addressed allows more time for malicious actors to exploit the data ecosystem and steal sensitive information. This kind of delay only serves to exacerbate an already critical issue, and makes the required response that much more complicated and time consuming.

Data breach detection is the process of recognizing, identifying, and notifying stakeholders of an incident that places sensitive data at risk. Recognizing that a breach has occurred is the first step, and it happens when a software, hardware, or administrator detects abnormal or troublesome behavior in the ecosystem. This could be a higher number of visitors than normal to a sensitive data set, increased access activities outside of business hours, or other actions that deviate from the norm. Once the exact behavior has been detected and traced, the system can accurately identify the type of breach.

When the breach has been detected and the type identified, the system or administrator should immediately notify relevant stakeholders. Informing the right people about the incident in a timely manner means security teams can quickly begin to take the appropriate measures to respond, such as locking down and re-securing data with limited exposure.

Why Data Breach Detection is Crucial for Data Security

Effective data security is based on an organization’s awareness of its data and preparedness for any compromising incident. The NIST National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) reinforces this view, noting that:

“Before an incident happens, companies must have a security architecture and response plan in place. Once an incident occurs, they must be able to detect the event and respond accordingly. After the incident, the company must be able to recover effectively and efficiently.” 

This demonstrates the necessity of not just proactively protecting and securing sensitive data, but having tools and processes in place to detect a breach event and respond appropriately. This is where data breach detection plays an essential role in data security.

Imagine, for example, you’re the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of a multinational bank with branches in countries around the world. Each of these branches will have its own customers, who will have sensitive financial data that exists within its data ecosystem. This data–including information like account numbers, social security information, address, and dates of birth–will be accessed and used by various departments for valid purposes, which creates a rather complex data ecosystem with an array of data, platforms, users, and use cases.

Consider the attack surface this network provides. With so many moving parts, a breach could occur at any point for many different reasons. Without a data breach detection tool, locating and addressing a breach in this ecosystem would be like finding a needle in a haystack – and you may only find out about the needle after it pricks someone. The search would be time consuming, and it would only commence after the needle alerts you of its presence.

With data breach detection measures in place, this data breach “needle” would be identified and you would be alerted of it as soon as it is detected in the data ecosystem “haystack.” This not only lends itself to an effective security response, but removes the downtime it would take for the breach to reveal itself through manual observation.

How to Implement Data Breach Detection

As data ecosystems grow and sensitive data is increasingly collected and stored within them, it is more important than ever to take proactive measures against the risk of data breaches and leaks.

This is where a data breach detection tool can become an integral part of your modern data stack. By implementing a tool that enables breach detection, teams can ensure that their data is under constant supervision and receive timely insights into any risky user behavior that may signal a breach. This monitoring can track changes in user behavior and entitlements, security configurations and data classification, and data access requests.

Immuta Detect offers continuous data security monitoring and posture management for data-driven organizations. Detect provides data and security teams with the ability to:

  1. Easily identify and understand data assets, classify data’s levels of sensitivity, and track sensitive data with agile risk severity scoring.
  2. Effectively monitor and measure data security risk based on deep-dive drill downs into data access behavior, queries run over time, sensitive data indicators, and configuration and classification changes.
  3. Easily integrate with SIEM technologies such as Splunk and Snowflake to consolidate and streamline data security posture management.
  4. Maintain continuous, consolidated audit logs that track every action or activity taken related to data or reports in your information ecosystem to prove compliance.

In doing this, organizations are given a granular understanding of the exact activities being performed with their data. This creates a proactive breach detection and monitoring network that continuously assesses behavior and sends incident alerts to keep teams aware of any network risks and anomalies.

Want to learn more about Immuta Detect and the accompanying data discovery and secure data tools that round out our Data Security Platform? Schedule a live demo with one of our data security experts today.

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