Nowadays, it’s common to hear about yet another high-profile security and data breach in which critical data is leaked, resulting in damage to the organization’s reputation and bottom line.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to remove all risks in your organization but there are ways to best protect against them and improve your security posture. In this blog, we will explore data leakage, how it differs from a data breach, and how your organization can best protect itself from leakage in the future.
What are data leakage and data breaches?
Data leakage (or data leak) is when sensitive data is overlooked and exposed by a cybercriminal either electronically or physically. Data leakage often occurs from the internal devices of an organization such as employee laptops, external hard drives, USB drives, or electronically via the web or employee emails. In the event of data leakage, cybercriminals locate the data leak and leverage information found to better assist themselves to perform a data breach.
Difference between a data leak and a data breach
Data leaks and data breaches can often be confused when it comes to cybercriminal activity — but once you understand how they occur, it’s clear to see that the two are very different. A data leak is when sensitive data is unknowingly and unintentionally exposed.
A data breach is an event caused by a cyberattack. While compromised sensitive data are both the outcomes of a data breach and a data leak, the intent that caused them is different.
10 Ways to protect your organization from data leakage and data breaches
Here are some essential steps your organization can take to best protect your sensitive data from being leaked.
1. Identify critical data and information
Knowing where your sensitive and critical data is located is the first step to securing your network. If you don’t know where important data lives, then how can you best protect it? Businesses need to know how much data they have, where it is, and a universal data coding system to ensure sensitive data is clearly marked and understood by everyone in the organization. Consider utilizing data loss prevention software to protect the sensitive information within your network and help you identify any disruptions or leaks in your data.
2. Evaluate access and activity
Once you’ve effectively identified the sensitive data, then you must monitor and evaluate the access and activity associated with the data. Having visibility to discover, track, and monitor the data across your business in real-time provides a clear picture of your network and helps to prevent data leakage.
In addition, having the ability to identify any anomalous behavior — such as granting secure access, copying or deleting information, or suspicious downloads — will help prevent data breaches well before they happen.
3. Monitor the security posture of vendors
When you work with vendors, their risks and vulnerabilities become your own. Before working with a vendor, it’s important to conduct a third-party risk assessment to identify and understand the kinds of risks associated with their business. From there, it’s your responsibility to monitor the vendors’ security posture to check for new risks or vulnerabilities.
Cyber threats are changing every day as new technologies challenge cybersecurity efforts, and maintaining continuous compliance can be difficult for many vendors that don’t update their networks regularly. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of your organization to ensure compliance and a strong security posture while working with third-party vendors.
4. Protect all endpoints
An endpoint is any device that is connected to the last location, or ending point, of a data transfer. While this may sound self-explanatory, the increase of internet-connected devices has multiplied the number of endpoints making it much harder to protect all endpoints — especially with remote work spanning internationally.
Every device connected to a network is now a security risk. So with that said, if a cybercriminal gains access to a device from poor endpoint security, they can easily migrate into the network.
5. Utilize data encryption
Data encryption is when data is translated into another code or form, and only those with access to a decryption key or password can read it. Therefore, data encryption can prevent cyber criminals from easily reading sensitive data in the event of data leakage. It’s important to note that while data encryption is a useful tool in the event of a leakage, it shouldn’t be the only tool to prevent a full-blown breach.
6. Use Real-Time Sensors To Test Your Security System Regularly.
By maintaining continuous, real-time file integrity monitoring and control, retailers can protect critical configuration files from unauthorized changes and meet file integrity monitoring and audit trail rules.
You’ll be able to identify all suspected vulnerabilities across your infrastructure and proactively take action against specific versions and types of files based on your company’s policies. By giving individual employees’ file rights and approvals into the trust metrics for your company, you’ll have complete visibility into all changes and vulnerabilities that software updates may introduce.
This increased visibility provides a wealth of information for the penetration test and will expose all known and potential vulnerabilities prior to the commencement of testing. This also will help you determine what penetration tests to execute because the coordinates can be created against a set of known possibilities rather than a negative set of data.
7. Build Measurable Business Intelligence Around Your Business Assets.
By understanding and having visibility into real-time file asset inventory information, you can build intelligence around all of your file assets, including their prevalence, trust rating, threat and inherited vulnerabilities.
Having a high level of visibility enhances your ability to report on any asset at audit time or during pre-compliance assessment and security intelligence gathering. This enables you to take a proactive stance against anything running within your enterprise, sifting out anything that’s deemed untrustworthy.
8. Develop A Strategy To Protect Your Infrastructure On Multiple Levels.
This includes closing every opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit your point-of-sale terminals, kiosks, workstations, and servers. The ability to collect endpoint information in real-time provides retailers with the information to assess the risk that any asset may pose to its security and PCI compliance.
Monitor traffic and create a central log of security-related information to alert you to suspicious activity on your network.
9. Minimize The Customer Data You Collect And Store.
Acquire and keep only data required for legitimate business purposes (e.g., marketing, billing, shipping), and only for as long as necessary. When data is no longer of business value, properly dispose of it. For example, shred paper documents before recycling and remove hard drives from computers before disposing of them. Take your security efforts a step further by encrypting the sensitive data that you collect. Encryption makes it more difficult for unauthorized parties to read lost or stolen data. Install encryption on all laptops, mobile devices, flash drives, and backup tapes.
10. Maintain Pci Compliance Throughout The Checkout Process.
If you’re able to detect transactional data point infractions in real-time and stop anything introduced into your infrastructure that’s outside of known software (e.g., advanced threats), you can ensure that transactional data (e.g., a credit card number) is protected at every stage in the process.
The cost of data breaches is millions every year and the top companies are a victim of it too. IBM describes in detail the cost of a data breach. You can save yourself from data breaches by following the above methods. However, if you still want some consultation on data security you can send an email at email@example.com or contact us here
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