Secure messaging: How to prevent data breaches 

The complete guide about secure messaging

Table of contents

We have entered a new era of cybercrime. Post-pandemic messaging fraud is bigger and more complicated than ever before, and it’s increasing at an alarming rate. In this guide, we will explain in detail why secure messaging is crucial to prevent data breaches.

Mobile messaging in business is here to stay. You should continue using it to communicate with your customers, employees, patients or citizens. But as people conduct their activities exclusively on mobile, the risks of fraud and security breaches are higher.

People are using their phones for personal and work activities. They upload their credit card numbers to make purchases, access their bank accounts, and send important work emails from the same device.

You are probably working hard to protect your consumers in digital environments and educate them on preventing attacks. But it’s not enough. Numerous new fraud forms exist, like SIM swapping, SMS pumping, man-in-the-middle attacks, and number hijacking. It’s challenging to be aware of all of them.

As more sophisticated schemes exist, you must proactively prevent expensive repercussions. Security breaches cause service disruptions, such as data loss, and reputation damage, adding to high business costs.

When your audience is attacked with spam or smishing messages, fraudsters could use your brand to bait them. The good news is that companies and organizations worldwide are already acting to avoid the costly consequences of security breaches.

Let’s dive into the importance of secure messaging to prevent data breaches.

Why is it essential to prevent data breaches?

Even huge companies such as Facebook and Telegram suffered security breaches. You are not exempt from that.

IBM’s report about data breaches states that the most common initial attack reported by businesses was compromised credentials of 19% at an average cost of USD 4.50 million.

In second place was phishing, for 16%. According to the report, phishing attacks cost USD 4.91 million in 2022. Other initial attack vectors were cloud misconfiguration at 15% and third-party software vulnerabilities at 13%.

According to the report, the United States holds the title for the highest cost of a data breach. The global average total data breach cost is $4.35M, and only in the US is $9.44M. That’s USD 5.09 million difference!

In that country, the penalties for data breaches are incredibly high. The CCPA protocol establishes that businesses can pay up to $7.500 for each data point. For HIPAA violations, the cost can go up to $25.000.

In the EU, businesses have a similar scenario. GDPR laws can fine organizations for €20 million, or 4% of their annual turnover.

Other continents are not left out of data breach penalties. Recently, a cybersecurity attack cost Singapore’s bank S$13.7 million across 790 victims. That is an average of USD 12,800 per victim.

But it’s not only about money. You should add other costs to these vast numbers that could affect your business reputation and future.

For example, companies which suffer cyber-attacks tend to lose existing and potential clients and harm customer loyalty and brand reputation. Also, their operational costs rise because of the increment of calls to contact centres and support.

USD 4.35 million Average total costs of a data breach

IBM

Other data breach statistics you should consider:

  • Remote work is a crucial factor. The report states that USD 1 million is the different average costs where remote work was a factor in causing the breach versus when it wasn’t a factor.
  • Breaches are not a one-time thing. 83% of organizations surveyed said they had had more than one breach.
  • It is important who you partner with. 19% of data breaches analysed occurred because of a compromise at a business technology partner.
  • Your customers will suffer the consequences. 60% of organizations’ breaches led to increased prices passed on to customers.

How does secure messaging help prevent data breaches?

Data is all your company’s intellectual property. As you may know, organizations store their data somewhere – it can be on the cloud, servers in or out of the company, or both.

Secure messaging and data are different but are related. Most businesses and organizations are using mobile messaging to interact with their audiences. In fact, 90% of companies will adopt a communications platform by 2023.

In each message you send, there are important data. That means a text, a file or a voice message. That’s why good features and capabilities are not enough when using a communication platform to interact with audiences.

Message security should be your priority. Why? Because companies have the freedom to choose where to store their data but not what data they can keep. They must comply with data regulations, like GDPR and CCPA, which tell them what information they can store.

A secure and global CPaaS platform should figure out solutions that adhere to all regulations to ensure the data is protected and doesn’t transfer over to different nations.

That means ensuring your messages are encrypted and stored safely, following your country’s data regulations. Working with a secure communication platform prevents some of the most common data breaches and SMS frauds.

Is text messaging secure?

According to PCMag, 90% of people open a text within three minutes of being received. Text messaging is the top communication channel for consumers because they want to interact with businesses through their phones.

But SMS’s popularity in business communication has made it the perfect channel for fraud. Hackers continuously seek out new ways to profit from vulnerabilities in and around it.

The truth is that A2P SMS and P2P SMS are not end-to-end encrypted. It is also the mobile communication channel that receives the highest daily occurrence of unsolicited messages.

But they are still secure. Robert Gerstmann, managing director of CLX Communications, assure that “text messages remain the most trusted channel”. “This is likely because the percentage of spam messages is still a tiny fraction at less than one per cent overall.”

To reduce the possibility of text messaging fraud, enterprises must set guardrails for originators, secure their orchestration platform, and assess partner providers carefully. All members of the SMS communication chain – from end recipients and originators to orchestrators and providers – shared priority to detect and avoid mobile fraud schemes.

Common Data Breach Issues

  • Compromised credentials

According to IBM, compromised credentials were the most common data breach in 2022. It’s a cyberattack in which hackers steal credentials to access online accounts to get personal and financial information.

As most people use the same password for different accounts, it’s easy for hackers to get access. They usually use an automation tool to login into different sites, services, and app accounts, trying different username and password combinations.

Once they have your users’ credentials, they can lock them out of their accounts, steal and modify information, make purchases, send messages in their names, shut down their accounts, and more.

All companies are exposed to compromised credentials if they don’t use the right tools. In 2016, Uber suffered a data breach that exposed the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of 57 million of its users and drivers. It took a year to disclose the breach.

  • Phishing and Smishing

Everyone knows what smishing is, and we are sure you have probably received a smishing SMS or phishing email at least once.

The problem is that hackers have gained sophistication, and it’s almost impossible to differentiate illicit messages from legitimate ones.

If you think smishing is your customers’ problem, let me say you are wrong. Smishing has consequences for consumers, the sender and the provider.

Technically, smishing is not always considered a responsibility of the company. But you could suffer high costs if your customers give all their personal information to hackers.

Take the example we’ve mentioned before: The OCBC bank in Singapore had to pay $13.7 million to 790 victims of smishing. Plus, you should consider reputation damage, loss of customers, and other potential costs.

Fortunately, there are some best practices to prevent smishing. First, you should teach your employees and customers how to recognise and report a smishing SMS or phishing email. Second, it’s helpful to send simulated fraudulent SMS to your audiences to measure the result of your training and security awareness.

Last but not least: Implementing 2FA and IP address controls in your applications can make it harder for hackers to access your systems.

  • Cloud misconfiguration

Cloud misconfigurations are errors or gaps in the cloud environment that put at risk valuable information.

The most common cloud misconfiguration types are storage access misconfigurations, overly permissive access, unrestricted inbound and outbound ports, and unlimited access to non-HTTP/HTTPS ports, among others.

According to IBM, 45% of data breaches occurred in the cloud. Those in the public cloud cost considerably more than breaches at organizations with a hybrid cloud model.

While the number is high, it’s essential to consider that 43% of the organizations that suffered cloud misconfigurations had not started or were in the early stages of applying practices to secure their cloud environments.

Meanwhile, 34% were in the midstage and were applying many cloud security practices, and 23% were in the mature stage and were using security practices consistently across all domains.

  • Third-party software vulnerabilities

This type of data breach occurs when hackers attack an organization through external parties in its supply chain, such as suppliers, partners, service providers, or vendors.

These external parties have access to crucial information, like internal processes, customer data, systems, and more.

According to Veracode, seven in every ten applications have flaws in their open-source libraries on initial scans.

That’s why it’s important to choose a technology partner focused on secure messaging and data privacy with the right security certifications, like ISO 27001, that assesses and evaluates the information security processes of a business.

There are also other common frauds, but especially focusing on SMS, like SIM Swap fraud, Social Engineering, Account Takeover (ATO), Vishing, Pretexting, Password Spraying, and Credential Stuffing.

Tips to Stop a Data Breach

It’s crucial to implement a plan to evaluate and address the common risks. Let’s see some tips.

Execute periodic assessments about possible threats

As we mentioned before, mobile messaging is crucial to improving customer experience and brand loyalty. But as many new channels emerged, companies faced unknown fraud risks daily.

Frauds affecting PBX and VoIP are important but not the only ones. It would be best to act to prevent ransomware, malware, and many others. Periodic assessments about all these possible threats will give you and your team a clear overview of the risks you face using a communication platform.

Choose a secure provider as your partner

Your customers want you to be available for them via multiple communication channels – WhatsApp, SMS, Voice Messaging, RCS, and more. Cloud communications platforms let businesses do that. But while the results are great, it’s important not to compromise on security.

Choose a technology partner compromised with mobile security and data protection. It should offer evidence of security certifications and compliance with global and specific regulations.

Investing in a CPaaS with AI-powered fraud detection is also crucial to save data breach costs. According to IBM, the average cost savings associated with fully deployed security AI and automation was USD 3.05 million in 2022.

Access control policies

Believe it or not, one of the most common reasons for compromised credentials is weak passwords. According to a report from NordPass, people usually use the same weak password for different accounts.

With the right access controls in place, you can reduce fraud significantly. To start is fundamental to encourage your team and employees to update their passwords periodically, ensuring they are complex and unique.

There are tools like LastPass that set strong passwords for different accounts and keep them safe, without the need to type them every time you have to log in.

Also, enabling 2FA for your employees’ and customers’ accounts will make hackers work harder. They will need another one-time password to access the account, even if they have your username and password.

When choosing a secure communication vendor, you should consider if it offers high-level access control tools, like two-factor authentication, IP access control, and content masking.

Train your customers and employees

Your customers and employees are also the hackers’ target. They are aware of that and want you to protect them. To maintain their loyalty and trust, you should educate them and be available for them to answer and solve their concerns.

By using a CPaaS platform with automated AI chatbots, you can have real-time conversations with them whenever they have questions about possible fraud. Also, you can improve response time in all your communication channels to keep your customers and employees informed when a crisis occurs.

Track your communications data

End-to-end visibility is essential to prevent and respond quickly to fraud and data breaches. With reporting and analytics tools in place, you can see unusual activity or behaviour and act before it expands.

Use case: Secure messaging in healthcare

Poor communication impacts not only patient satisfaction but also the quality of care. According to our recent Healthcare Whitepaper, 80% of patients want to use their smartphones to interact with healthcare providers.

Most healthcare organizations and hospitals are embracing digital transformation by using SMS to send their patients’ appointment reminders or automate staff processes.

But the healthcare industry has federal laws, like HIPAA, about what patient data they should keep and how to secure it. To improve their communications and avoid costly penalties, they should choose a secure communication platform for healthcare with all that laws and regulations in mind.

Focusing on secure messaging in healthcare is fundamental if we consider that it’s the industry with the most data breaches. From 2017 to 2019, 93% of healthcare organizations suffered a data breach. And 57% stated that it happened five times.

Use case #2: Secure messaging in government

Digital transformation is also reaching governments. Citizens prefer new ways of communication, and government agencies must start interacting with them in the channels they prefer.

But as happens in the healthcare industry, governments manage sensitive and important data that should be kept safe and private. Only one data breach can generate a service disruption, data loss and reputation damage.

Governments should choose an encrypted messaging platform with privacy controls to protect their data and reduce risks.

The right communication platform for governments should use HTTP or FTPS for data transport security; have security features, like 2FA, and have messaging control centres to give the right access to the right people.

How can security breaches be prevented?

Being equipped with the right communication tools is crucial to prevent data breaches.

You should not settle for your existing mobile messaging product features; you need a secure enterprise messaging platform with a particular focus on security and compliance that can protect both you and your audiences.

Implementing proactive security measures along all customer journey points is the best way to ensure you and your account holders are protected. Proactively safeguarding against all forms of fraud from a comprehensive viewpoint is especially critical with the rise in multi-point attacks that simultaneously exploit originators, providers, orchestrators, and end users.

Soprano CPaaS is a secure communication platform with the right set of security features to help you protect your messaging at multiple points in the communication chain.

Our reliable connectivity (thanks to our MNO partnerships) makes us the industry-best choice for organizations that need a higher level of communication security.

Soprano’s expert teams can give you a tailored recommendation for a security bundle that will offer you the best protection.

Soprano Connect is built for security and compliance-forward organizations. Our team is experienced with complicated deployments, and our carrier partners ensure high deliverability across the globe.