What Is Data Leakage?

Data leakage happens when someone within an organization transmits data to an unauthorized recipient or leaves a gap that allows unauthorized people to access the data.

What Is Data Leakage and How Do You Prevent It?

Businesses of all sizes rely on data for day-to-day operations. Data powers essential processes and allows business managers to make informed decisions. But in the wrong hands, the data can expose the business to risk that could lead to legal issues, financial losses, bankruptcy, and even closure.

Over the years, we’ve seen businesses fall victim to pernicious threats. The trend has been growing, with projections even showing that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 annually. The key to overturning this formidable rising data breach trend is to prevent situations that could potentially lead to data breaches.

In this article, we’ll focus on data leakage. Data leakage is one of the many ways bad actors gain access to critical data.

We’ll discuss in detail:

  • What data leakage is
  • common causes of data leakage
  • How to detect data leakage
  • How to prevent data leakage
  • How data leakage affects organizations at different hierarchical levels

We’ll also tell you how CenterPoint IT can protect your company from data leakage and similar threats.

What Is Data Leakage

What is Data Leakage?

Data leakage happens when someone within an organization transmits data to an unauthorized recipient or leaves a gap that allows unauthorized people to access the data. Either action can be deliberate or accidental and can occur via email, the web, or even mobile storage devices like USBs, optical media, and laptops.

  • Data leakage is intentional (or deliberate) when an insider obtains and shares sensitive data with people outside the organization. They can do this for personal gains, beliefs, or to retaliate.
  • On the other hand, unintentional or accidental data leakage happens when an insider unknowingly shares sensitive information outside of an organization. Usually, this is due to negligence or compromise by the user or system.

Data loss due to insider threats is a growing problem, but the prevalence has increased since the pandemic hit. In fact, 2020 was a landmark year for data breaches, recording a staggering 36 billion records exposed. 2021 was even worse. By October, breaches had surpassed 2020 numbers by 17%. This is primarily due to the adoption of the work-from-home and bring-your-device models that create vulnerabilities in data.

Whether accidental or deliberate, data leakage is a severe security threat and can have far-reaching consequences, including:

  • Legal action and litigation
  • Operational downtime
  • Lost revenue
  • Brand value and reputation

If your business lacks the resources to support an in-house data loss prevention system, outsourcing to Centerpoint IT might be the answer.

Common Causes of Data Leakage

There are many reasons why employees, third-party contractors, system administrators, and other people who have legitimate access become inside attackers. Some include:

  • Employee negligence: Negligence comes in many forms. It can be human or employee error – like not locking a work computer when leaving the desk. Or phishing or malware attack from unsecured devices or email. Discarded physical documents and misplaced thumb drives can also leak out business data.
  • Mistakes by IT staff: Data leak can occur when the IT team fails to update software or incorrectly configures the system. Though unintentional, it may leave loopholes and potential network gaps that serve as access points for a bad actor.
  • Granting unnecessary access credentials: This happens when many people have access to sensitive data. When data floats through multiple levels of the organization, it becomes easier for malicious employees to leak the data.
  • Poor cybersecurity of third-party vendors: While some vendors have robust security standards and good risk management practices, others don’t. Unfortunately, poor cybersecurity of third-party can expose your sensitive data to bad actors.
  • Aim for personal gain: Some insiders deliberately leak information for personal gains, like getting paid or jeopardizing the organization.
  • Susceptibility of social engineering: This happens when a bad actor uses psychological manipulation to trick insiders into giving away sensitive data or making security mistakes. Examples of social engineering attacks include:
    • Phishing
    • Pretexting
    • Baiting
    • Tailgating and piggybacking
    • Quid Pro Quo

How to Detect Data Leakage

Common indicators of data leakage include:

  • A strange software in your system
  • High network or system activity
  • Abnormal user activities like multiple logging from different IP addresses

How to Prevent Data Leakage

Here’s how you can protect your company from potential data leakage:

  1. Employee education: This is an essential tool for preventing your team from inadvertently leaking business information. Teach your employees how to spot phishing emails and what steps to take when they suspect they’ve received one.
  2. Use multi-factor authentication protocol: Two-factor authentication serves as an extra layer of security, keeping out insiders who try to access business email accounts or drive to leak sensitive data.
  3. Track user activity and data access: Know who has access to which data and how they use it. This way, you’ll a precise knowledge into data leak risks.
  4. Store sensitive data separately: Classify your data, and store the sensitive data in a safe and secure environment.
  5. Use data encryption: Encryption secures information and attachments sent via email from exfiltration. Talk to your IT service provider about automated email encryption to minimize the risk of manual encryption.
  6. Secure endpoint devices from data loss: This includes printers, laptops, smartphones, etc., that employees use to work.

How Data Leakage Affects Organizations at Different Hierarchical Levels

Data leakage can happen to organizations of all sizes. However, the impact of data leaks varies depending on the hierarchical levels. For example, companies like Netflix or PayPal store highly sensitive data like credit card numbers, names, addresses, email, phone numbers, etc. A leak at this level could mean exposing all these user details to bad actors. It would also mean expensive lawsuits against the company.

But big companies have the resources to invest in systems and processes that can detect data leaks as soon as they happen. They also invest heavily in cybersecurity and have thorough data security protocols that keep data leak cases to a minimum.

But attackers don’t just go after the big companies. They also target small and mid-sized businesses. In fact, small and mid-sized businesses are often attacked because they’re easy targets. They’re often unprepared for attacks because they assume they’re too small to target and don’t have a strong financial backbone.

SME and large companies can benefit from outsourcing data leak prevention services to managed service providers like Centerpoint IT. With an expert taking care of the data leak issue, managers can focus on running the business.

Data Leakage Prevention at Centerpoint IT

Centerpoint IT is a leading managed IT service provider in Atlanta. We provide a range of services to help your business prevent data leakage and ensuing issues. We can also monitor systems and deliver regular alerts on suspicious activities, network attacks, etc. Contact us today to learn more.