Experts Urge Complete Cybersecurity Defense—2.6 Billion Records Exposed by Cyberattacks in 2 Years

  • By Steven
  • Dec 08, 2023

Experts Urge Cybersecurity Defense-2.6 Billion Records Exposed in 2 Years

Cybersecurity breaches are at epidemic proportions; in the last two years, cybercriminals have stolen over 2.6 billion consumer records from thousands of organizations. The breaches target more than individuals—they target data from healthcare networks, academic institutions, small businesses, and governments. The attacks come at a destructive cost. Where criminals use personal information for extortion, and the trust of the public is ever-decreasing. 

Apple, one of the world’s most prominent technology innovators, commissioned a study regarding cybersecurity from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor—the sagacious Dr. Stuart Madnick. Madnick’s report delves into the statistics, threats, and consequences of these recent cybersecurity attacks; he directs readers to how they and companies can protect themselves, even when cybercriminals steal sensitive data.

How Do These Attacks Occur? 

Cloud environments are a significant source of data breaches (pg 4), but not because they are inherently unsafe. Instead, they are a significant source of breaches because as the cloud tech further develops, technical staff may not have the skill or training to implement data protections (pg 8). The skills gap that may exist for some organizations is significantly prominent in the form of vendor exploitation events (pg 15). Cloud misconfigurations allow these cyberattacks, including unrestricted access ports, unsecured servers (pg 8), and unencrypted personal information (pg 7-8).

What Information Gets Stolen in the Attacks? 

The information stolen in a cyberattack is specific to the organization itself; organizations are not ignorant of their obligations to consumers and patients, often making direct cyber assaults highly challenging for hackers. Consequently, hackers have turned to attack the vendors and software these organizations use (pg 9); they manipulate back- and side-door accesses to breach multiple organizations simultaneously (pg 14). 

This year’s most widespread data breach came from Progress Software’s MOVEit event. In this event, more than 65 million individuals have had their data exposed, including their personally identifiable information, financial accounts, medical data, government-issued credentials, and sensitive data (pg 16). 

How Must Companies Handle Breaches? 

According to Madnick’s report, 98% of organizations continue to work with vendors despite having had breaches in the last two years (pg 14); an organization’s willingness to continue using breached vendors is a significant determinative aspect of future breaches. If cybercriminals find one weakness, other vulnerabilities will be sought (pg 8). 

Organizations are not blameless in these events. Madnick suggests “limiting the amount of personal data they store in readable format” (pg 3), which limits cybercriminals’ use of the data. Further, organizations can create defenses that mitigate a lot of data misuse when those attacks occur. They only need to properly encrypt the data and require encryption keys (pg 8). 

What Becomes of Stolen Consumer Information? 

The ability of criminals to commit double extortion (pg 13) creates an incentive for organizations to avoid paying ransoms; this, in turn, makes cyberattacks more aggressive and dangerous for the public (pg 12). More than a loss of privacy, these attacks may create financial losses and follow-up attacks, and in the case of medical information, they may physically endanger the data owner (pg 18).

What Happens in the Aftermath of a Breach? 

No organizations, vendors, cyber experts, or individuals are safe from data breaches (pg 19). Cybersecurity is not an organization-only problem; it’s a comprehensive approach to life in cyber environments. Apple’s measures filled iCloud with end-to-end encryption and drastically reduced the chances of cyber threats to their users. However, even end-to-end encryption alone is insufficient if criminals access the data.

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