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How to Avoid Data Leaks


The Internet offers a convenient platform for sharing data, but it also brings the risk of data leaks. A data leak occurs when sensitive information is accidentally exposed, differing from a data breach, which usually stems from a deliberate cyberattack.

To prevent data leaks, companies can implement secure practices to safeguard their information. Explore further to discover effective measures your organization can take to ensure data security.

Why is Data Leak Prevention Important?

Data leaks are a focus for cybercriminals. Many of them monitor accounts, waiting for a leak to occur. Accidental exposure can provide access to financial information, trade secrets, personal identification information, and private records.

When a malicious party accesses sensitive information, there’s no saying what they will do with it. They may visit dark web forums and put the information up for sale or publish it freely. Or they may publish stolen data on dark websites or ransomware blogs to make the information public.

What are Common Data Leak Causes?

Data leaks can happen for various reasons. Understanding common data leak causes can help address the issue. Here are some issues to be aware of:

  • Misconfigured software settings: Security settings that are either not implemented or deployed with errors can cause security gaps that leave data unprotected. 
  • Software vulnerabilities: Unpatched security makes it easy for sensitive data to slip through the cracks. 
  • Weak passwords: Weak passwords make private information vulnerable to cybercrime attacks.  Multi-factor authentication can keep systems protected. 
  • Insider threats: Excessive privileges increase the risk of internal threats. It’s scary to think about, but even a trusted employee can steal data from a company’s system. 
  • Social engineering: Social engineering is the use of deception or manipulation to coerce individuals into divulging confidential information. 
  • Physical theft: An increased focus on cybersecurity makes it difficult to account for devices being lost or stolen. Companies must keep hardware protected. 
  • Spear-phishing: Spear-phishing occurs when a cybercriminal sends out an email requesting financial or sensitive information. These emails often seem legitimate and innocent, but they can have serious implications if sensitive information is transmitted. 
  • Botnets: Botnets are a network of private computers infected with malicious software. They can take over your computer and access important data. 
  • Personal Mobile Devices: Employees’ mobile devices may store sensitive data that can be easily accessed by malicious users. 
  • Remote Work Environments: Remote work environments mean more data is sent over the internet increasing the risk that it will fall into the wrong hands. 

Best Practices for Avoiding Data Leaks

Evaluate Third-Party Risk

Companies risk data leaks when they pass sensitive information on to third-party vendors. Organizations can increase security by ensuring their vendors are compliant with regulatory standards like HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI-DSS. Risk questionnaires can be used to assess potential threats when partnering with new vendors. 

Expanding organizations may find it difficult to maintain risk management regulations for third-party companies that may also experience growth spurts. Scaling vendor risk management as a managed service could streamline the process. Companies can achieve this goal by leveraging automation and protecting their business if a data leak occurs.

Limit Access to Sensitive Data

Organizations must identify sensitive data and classify it with strict security policies. They should restrict privileges to ensure the data is accessed only by those who need it. 

Systems must be implemented to evaluate permissions and ensure access isn’t granted to unauthorized parties. The data should then be categorized into different levels of sensitivity. Only trusted staff members should have access to highly sensitive data

The technology may also identify malicious behaviour within the system. 

Enforce Network Access Control

Companies must monitor network access to protect data from unauthorized users. They must review the communication coming into the network to ensure it’s coming from trusted sources. They must integrate data leak prevention solutions to ensure information isn’t compromised when a leak occurs. 

A Network Access Control (NAC) solution may help organizations keep data safe. It denies access to noncompliant devices, places them in a quarantined area, or limits their privileges to prevent infections. 

Data Encryption

Data encryption is a valuable anti-data leak tool. It encrypts data so it can only be read by people with access privileges. Cybercriminals will be unable to decipher sensitive data. 

Portable encryption is recommended because it ensures that data will be automatically encrypted if it leaves the confines of your network. 

However, advanced cybercriminals may be able to translate data encryption. Therefore, it should be combined with other anti-leak strategies to ensure information remains protected. 

Secure Endpoints

Endpoints are physical devices that connect to a network. Examples include mobile devices, desktop computers, servers, embedded devices, IoT devices, and virtual machines. The increased adoption of remote work environments has made these endpoints harder to secure. 

Organizations can protect endpoints with extended endpoint security. Employees with company iPhones should use Security Recommendations which notify them when their information has been compromised by a data leak. 

Firewalls and VPNs also protect endpoints, but many cybercriminals have learned to bypass them. They should be combined with additional security measures for optimal efficiency. 

Utilize Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Software

Data loss prevention applies to data leak prevention. It ensures sensitive data is not lost, misused, or exposed to unauthorized parties. A DLP program performs the following functions:

  • Identifies Data: AI may be used to identify data and streamline processes. 
  • Secures Data: DLP software may be deployed at the end of the network to ensure data transfers align with secure data policies.  
  • Secures Endpoints: Endpoint DLP monitors real-time user behaviour to ensure transfers occur between authorized parties. 
  • Protect Archived Data: The software uses regulatory compliance, access control, and encryption to protect archived data. 
  • Monitors Active Data: DLP tools will monitor data and flag suspicious behaviour. 
  • Detects Data Leaks: Data leak technology will scan for data exposures for fast remediation if a breach occurs. 

Employee Awareness Training 

Employees must be aware of the best anti-leak practices, as they are often susceptible to social engineering tactics, such as falling for phishing emails and similar scams.

To prevent employee-related data leaks, organizations should incorporate cybersecurity training into their onboarding process and provide ongoing training to keep workers informed about the latest cybersecurity trends. This approach ensures that networks remain secure from the ground up.

While data leaks may not constitute a direct attack, they can be just as damaging when sensitive information falls into the wrong hands. Implementing employee training, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) software, data encryption, access control measures, secure endpoints, and mitigating third-party risks are crucial steps to keep your system protected.

Which strategies do you use to ensure your company is safe? 

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