Despite the increasing emphasis on data security, cyber criminals are constantly finding ways to outmanoeuvre defences and gain unauthorised access to sensitive information..

Capita — a business outsourcing group that runs crucial services for local councils, the military, the NHS and large companies like Royal Mail and Axa — experienced two data breaches (one in March and one in May 2023) that impacted around 90 organisations.

These cyber security attacks caused a significant IT outage and compromised data filed in publicly accessible storage. The financial and reputational damage from these types of data breaches can also be devastating (the March hack alone is expected to cost Capita £20 million).

But Capita is not the first and will not be the last organisation to fall victim to cyber criminals. And with hackers trying every tactic in the book to infiltrate, steal and profit from valuable data, no organisation is safe — no matter their size or industry.

So, how do these breaches happen — and how can you protect your business from a similar fate to Capita and so many other companies?

What can cause a breach? 

We often associate data breaches with external hackers, but that is not always the case. In fact, studies show that 82% of breaches involve human error.

And although intentional attacks — internal or external — are common, data breaches can also happen through simple oversight by employees or flaws in a company’s security infrastructure.

For example, an employee using a colleague’s computer could read files without having authorisation. Although no information is stolen, the data is still breached.

In comparison, a malicious insider or external threat intends to access and steal data to harm the company.

So, what malicious attack methods should you be on guard from?


Phishing is a social-engineering attack used to steal user data, including login credentials and financial information.

It occurs when a cyber criminal, posing as a trusted source, dupes a victim into opening a malicious link. The link may be used to install malware, freeze the system as part of a ransomware attack or steal sensitive information.


The most common type of ransomware — encrypting ransomware — holds the victim’s data hostage by encrypting it. The attacker then demands a ransom for providing the encryption key needed to decrypt the data.

Password guessing

Many employees are hacked because their password is too weak.

This type of breach is called a brute-force attack, where hackers work through all the possibilities of a password until they guess correctly. Hackers can hijack other devices via malware infections to speed up the process — and if a password is weak, it can take hackers mere seconds to crack it.

How can your business prevent cyber security attacks?

No business is immune to data breaches, even if its software and processes seem airtight. But here are three best practices to improve awareness of threats and help your business prevent a data breach…

1. Educate and train your team

To keep your organisation protected, show your employees how to identify potential threats like phishing emails and the correct procedures for reporting suspected incidents.

Conducting cyber security training for your team can shift employee mindset and behaviour towards information security and demonstrate regulatory compliance.

Governments across Europe are currently introducing legislation with strict requirements, such as the NIS 2 Directive, to protect businesses from cyber security threats, so organisations must get ahead and ensure ongoing compliance in the ever-changing digital landscape.

2. Update and upgrade your software

Running outdated software makes it difficult to implement the latest security measures (including two-factor authentication and encryption), leaving your business vulnerable to data breaches and cyber threats.

The easiest way to keep up with software updates is by automating updates where possible — a ‘set-and-forget’ option that updates your software as soon as it becomes available.

3. Implement identity and access management

Although perfect protection may be a long shot, IAM solutions are a great way to prevent and minimise the impact of attacks.

Employing identity and access management (IAM) programmes allows businesses to set controls that give secure access to employees and devices — making it as difficult as possible for outsiders to get through.

Without IAM, data breaches can run rampant. Not only is it difficult to manage who has access to an organisation’s systems, but it is also tricky to revoke access from a compromised user.

Instead of restricting everyone’s access in the event of a breach, many IAM systems are also AI-enabled and capable of detecting and stopping attacks in their tracks — before they become more significant problems.

Is your organisation in need of an effective way to manage access and permissions to prevent a data breach? Our team of cyber security consultants can help! Burning Tree can strategise and implement an identity and access management programme to protect your business. Contact us at for more information.