In the digital information age, data leakage is a severe concern for businesses of all sizes.
Data leakage occurs when confidential or sensitive information is accessed without authorization. It can happen accidentally, through exfiltration by disgruntled employees, or via electronic communications with malicious intent.
The consequences of data leakage can be severe, ranging from reputational damage to regulatory fines.
Data loss prevention (DLP) is a critical tool for protecting against these threats. DLP solutions offer several benefits, including detecting and preventing data breaches, encrypting data in transit, and centrally managing security policies.
What is Data Leakage?
Data leakage is when people who aren't supposed to access, see, or know about confidential or sensitive information do so anyway. This situation can happen when data is transferred outside an organization without proper security measures.
Data leakage can also occur when unauthorized individuals gain access to the information within an organization, such as through a malicious email attachment or a stolen laptop.
Types of Data Leakage
There are three main types of data leakage: accidental breaches, exfiltration by disgruntled employees, and electronic communications with malicious intent.
Accidental breaches occur when authorized individuals unintentionally disclose confidential information. It happens when an employee sends an email to the wrong recipient or fails to secure a file containing sensitive data properly.
A good example is the Facebook datasets that were exposed in April 2019. It had more than 530 million users and included phone numbers, account names, and Facebook ids.
It wasn't Facebook's intentional act. Yet, the private information of millions of people was at risk.
Exfiltration by disgruntled employees is a type of data leakage that occurs when an employee deliberately steals or discloses confidential information to harm the company.
In 2008, a company called Cyber-Ark conducted a study. Around 300 database administrators participated in the study. What they found is that 88% of them said they would take user data with them if they were to be fired.
Finally, electronic communications with malicious intent refer to situations where confidential information is accessed or disclosed without authorization through electronic means, such as phishing attacks or malware infections.
In 2018, the Marriot International hotel chain announced that the sensitive information of more than half a million guests was exposed. But it wasn't an accident or an employee's ill intention. An attacker managed to sneak into the system and steal the information.
Another example of an information threat was with LinkedIn in June 2021. An attacker scraped and advertised for sales of about 700 million users' information on the dark web.
What information are vulnerable to data leakage?
In general, any type of confidential or sensitive information can be vulnerable to data leakage. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Financial data: credit card numbers and bank details stored in your databases, customer financial information, etc.
- Personal data: names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, date of birth, passport details, driver's license numbers, and any personally identifiable information (PII).
- Health data: medical records, health insurance information, etc.
- Company secrets: marketing plans, product roadmaps, business strategies, intellectual property, and so on.
- Legal matter: lawyer-client privilege, attorney work product doctrine, third-party agreements, and SLAs.
The Impact of data leakage
The consequences of data leakage can be devastating for businesses.
A data breach can damage a company's reputation, lead to financial losses, and result in regulatory penalties. In some cases, data breaches have also resulted in the loss of customer trust and the need to invest in new security measures.
The costs of data breaches can be high, and they can have a lasting impact on a company's bottom line. As such, businesses need to take steps to protect their data and prevent leaks from occurring. While there are direct consequences, there are indirect costs involved as well.
In some cases, businesses may need to hire additional staff to manage the fallout from a data breach. They may also need to invest in new security measures to prevent future violations. In other words, the costs of data leakage can be far-reaching and long-lasting.
How to prevent data leakage?
There are many steps businesses can take to prevent data leakage. Here are some of the most effective measures:
Encrypting data: Data encryption is one of the most effective ways to protect information from leaking. By encrypting data, businesses can make it unreadable to unauthorized individuals.
Using data leakage detection software: Data leakage detection software can help companies to identify when confidential information is being accessed or transferred without authorization.
Training employees: Employees should be trained on data security and handling personal information appropriately. They should also be made aware of the consequences of leaking data.
Implementing policies and procedures: Businesses should have policies and procedures to prevent data leakage. For example, they can require employees to encrypt sensitive files before sending them via email.
Restricting access to data: businesses should limit access to confidential information on a need-to-know basis. This will help to prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing sensitive data.
Monitoring activity: companies should monitor employee activity to detect unauthorized access or transfer of confidential information.
How Can DLP Help Protect Against Data Leakage Threats?
Data loss prevention (DLP) is a set of tools and best practices designed to help organizations protect against data leaks. DLP solutions offer several features to help organizations detect and prevent data breaches, encrypt data in transit, and centrally manage security policies.
Some of the most common features of DLP solutions include the following:
- Detect confidential information across email, web traffic, and file transfers
- Block or quarantine emails containing sensitive information
- Encrypt emails containing personal information
- Create and enforce security policies
- Monitor user activity for suspicious behavior
- Generate reports on data breaches and policy violations
- Integrate with existing security solutions, such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems
- Provide 24/7 support from experienced security professionals
Data leakage is a severe threat to businesses. Leaders must take measures to protect against data leakage from day zero.
DLP solutions offer a comprehensive approach to data security that can help organizations detect and prevent leaks before they happen.
By investing in a DLP solution, businesses can enjoy peace of mind knowing that their confidential information is safe from unauthorized access or disclosure.