Wildfires are uncontrolled and can spread rapidly—wiping out extensive areas of forest or vegetation land within minutes. According to the U.S. Fire Service, more than 700 wildfires occur every year; and over $5 billion is spent to fight fires each year.  Similarly, a data breach can wreak havoc in a business or organization quickly—often they are undetected initially until the damage is done.

Over 90% of all wildfires are caused by humans.  This includes acts of carelessness or negligence as well as deliberate acts of arson.  The remaining 10% of wildfires are the result of natural causes.  It is the same with data breaches.

Data Breach – The majority are caused by humans

Causes of data breaches include:

  • Careless security practices

    Allowing users to have more access than is required is like leaving a campfire unattended.

  • Negligence

    Simply not paying attention to identified security issues and addressing them such as replacing end-of-life technology or installing security patches is negligent. Just like you need to put a campfire totally out, you also need to stamp out known security issues.

  • Lack of awareness

    Lack of training and knowledge can lead to inadvertently causing a breach by an employee clicking on phishing emails or opening unfamiliar attachments. Humans use fireworks for celebrations such as birthdays, Christmas, New Year and, of course, the 4th of July without recognizing their potential to cause a fire.  Only one stray spark can start a huge wildfire; and because of fireworks’ slow burn rate, the remaining pieces can land in unintended places and start fires there.  Likewise, it just takes one click to encrypt an organization’s data or more.  There are cases where a data breach has been undetected for months before coming to light.

  • Deliberate cyber threats

    Hackers attempt to obtain both money and information for malicious gains. About 30% of wildfire events are caused by arsonists.  The numbers for malicious data breaches are much higher.  Most think of external hackers as the source of these breaches; but quite often, a disgruntled or former employee causes intentional breach or data loss from within.

What of the effects of wildfires?  Sadly, the effects are far reaching—the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, forest and soil degradation, air pollution, destruction of watersheds, impacts to human well-being and health and, of course, economic losses.

The effects of data breaches are similar to wildfires.  After a data breach, many businesses have gone out of business, suffered reputational damage, experienced diminished employee morale, increased stress and, of course, economic loss.  The expenses associated with data breaches add up quickly and without proper insurance and protection can be devastating to a business.

The destructive effects of wildfires can be mitigated by responsible behavior to avoid triggering fires.  Similarly, you can avoid a data breach by proactively reviewing and reacting to potential cyber risks across the board.

Need help in assessing your cyber risks?  Give us a call today.

First published in our May 2018 IT Radix Resource newsletter