What steps are you taking to protect your small business’s data from theft and unauthorized access? It’s no secret that data breaches are becoming increasingly common. According to Wikipedia, roughly 4.5 billion records were exposed in the first half of 2018 alone. As a small business owner, however, you can protect your data from theft and unauthorized access by familiarizing yourself with the five most common causes of data breaches.

#1) Malware

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that malware is a common cause of data breaches in the workplace. Some hackers create and deploy malware specifically for the purpose of stealing a business’s sensitive data. Once the malware is deployed on a business’s information technology (IT) infrastructure, it captures the targeted data and relays it back to the hacker.

#2) Lost or Stolen Devices

Another common cause of data breaches is lost or stolen devices. Statistics show over half of all instances of device theft occur in the workplace. A disgruntled employee, for example, may steal a device from the business for which he or she works. After stealing the device, the employee may sell the captured data on the black market to the highest bidder. Instances of device theft, as well as lost devices, are often the underlying cause of data breaches in the workplace.

#3) Human Error

Some data breaches are the result of human error. In other words, one or more employees — or other relevant professionals, such as independent contractors — make an honest mistake that causes a data breach. Maybe an employee accidentally sends a database to all email addresses listed in his or her contact list, or perhaps an employee fails to password-protected an otherwise sensitive document containing data.

#4) Software Vulnerability

Software vulnerabilities, when left unchecked, can cause data breaches. Granted, software vulnerabilities by themselves typically aren’t responsible for data breaches. Rather, they provide an easy and effective way for hackers to breach a business’s IT infrastructure and, therefore, steal its data. This is why it’s important for business owners to keep all their software updated to the latest version. Using outdated and unpatched software is a serious mistake that places businesses at greater risk for data breaches.

#5) Social Engineering

Finally, social engineering can result in a data breach. Not to be confused with phishing, social engineering is a highly manipulative cyber threat in which a hacker — or some other nefarious individual — tricks a business into divulging sensitive information, such as the login credentials for a database.

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