Identifying and Preventing Information Leakage at Your Organization

Data is the life source of modern businesses. Information leakage, whether accidental or intentional, can impair ...

Data is the life source of modern businesses. Information leakage, whether accidental or intentional, can impair operations, erode consumer trust, and lead to devastating consequences. Understanding the causes of information leaks and implementing robust prevention strategies is essential for every organization that handles sensitive data.

What Is Information Leakage?

An information leak is the unintentional or unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential data. The divulgence may occur between individuals or systems outside of an organization’s trusted boundaries, and it can happen accidentally or maliciously.

Regardless of the cause, leaks can lead to severe consequences, including financial losses, reputational damage, and legal or regulatory penalties. Every organization dealing with sensitive information must protect its data; failing to protect this digital asset is a flaw in security and a company’s integrity.

What Is an Example of a Leak of Information?

Information leaks can encompass a wide array of data types. The most common leaks include:

  • Customer information
  • Intellectual property
  • Financial records
  • Trade secrets
  • Employee data
  • Any other information an organization deems important

Books representing data (1)

What Are the Common Causes of Information Leakage?

Information leakage doesn’t happen in a vacuum. To protect against it, organizations must understand and root out the common causes.

Accidental Leaks

Accidental leaks stem from human error or technological oversights. These oversights can be as simple as a misaddressed email or as complex as misconfigured cloud storage permissions. In most cases, accidental leaks occur because of a lack of awareness or understanding of security protocols. For example, an employee might send sensitive documents to the wrong recipient because of autocomplete suggestions or accidentally hit “Reply All” on an email chain containing confidential information, resulting in an email data leak.

While offering scalability and flexibility, cloud environments introduce new possibilities for accidental leaks. For example, inadequate access controls on cloud storage buckets can leave sensitive data accessible to unauthorized individuals. Similarly, failing to encrypt data at rest within the cloud can expose it if a hacker manages to infiltrate the system.

The risk of accidental leaks highlights the importance of robust security configurations and training. User training on cloud security best practices and data encryption can help mitigate risks associated with unintentional leaks.

Malicious Insider Activity

Unlike accidental information leakage, malicious insider activity involves the deliberate intention to steal or expose confidential information. Typically, the malicious activity stems from disgruntled or disillusioned employees, such as those facing termination or feeling underappreciated. These individuals might seek revenge or financial gain by leaking sensitive data.

External actors might target employees through bribery, blackmail, or coercion to access valuable information. In some cases, bad actors may infiltrate a company with the sole intention of corporate espionage, aiming to steal proprietary information or trade secrets for a competitor.

Preventing malicious insider activity requires proactive measures. Organizations must implement the principle of least privilege and focus on the separation of duties, ensuring employees can access data and systems necessary for their roles and that no individual possesses too much control.

Exchange Migration CTA

External Attacks

External threats from malicious actors pose a significant risk for information leakage. Phishing attacks remain a persistent and effective tool for hackers. The attacks use social engineering tactics to trick employees into giving up their login credentials or downloading malware. Once inside the system, attackers can exploit software vulnerabilities, stealing or encrypting data for ransom. Zero-day exploits are most dangerous because they target unknown software flaws, making defense challenging.

External attackers can also conduct targeted hacking campaigns. The bad actors research the organization, identify high-value targets, and create personalized spear-phishing attempts. These targeted attacks usually focus on stealing intellectual property or disrupting critical operations.

To combat external attacks, a multi-layered security approach is necessary. Companies must invest in:

  • Robust security awareness training
  • Endpoint protection
  • Patch management
  • Network security
  • Third-party risk management

Since accidental leaks and employee vulnerabilities are often weak security points, training should focus on spotting phishing attacks, reporting suspicious activity, and creating strong, unique passwords.

Espionage (1)

How Can You Prevent Information Leakage?

Learning how to prevent information leakage requires a multi-faceted approach. Organizations must embrace a combination of technological safeguards, employee training, and physical security measures.

Email-Specific Security

Email is a prime target for attackers, so specific security measures are non-negotiable. Companies must focus on employee training, using simulated phishing exercises to reinforce education and identify individuals needing extra support. The training should help employees identify warning signs of phishing scams:

  • Grammatical errors
  • Strange sender addresses
  • Unexpected attachments
  • Urgent language

Email encryption may be a necessary layer of security for companies dealing in extra-sensitive communications. Encryption makes email content unreadable except for those with the decryption key. Data loss prevention solutions add another safeguard by scanning outbound email, detecting information like credit card or social security numbers, and automatically flagging or blocking the message from being sent.

Organizations should stress the importance of being cautious with email communications. Train employees to double-check recipients, especially before forwarding emails. Teach them to avoid the “Reply All” function, particularly when handling emails containing customer information. A company can integrate external safeguards for emails requiring confirmation before sending them to outside domains.

Cloud Migration CTA

Cloud Security Essentials

As organizations integrate the cloud into their data management systems, they must take steps to protect against information leakage. Robust cloud security hinges on solid identity and access management, including multi-factor authentication, to protect every cloud account.

If companies adhere to the principle of least privilege, they limit risks to cloud security. Still, restricting access is only part of securing cloud data. Organizations must classify their data based on sensitivity and encrypt it accordingly, whether at rest or in transit. Cloudficient offers fully encrypted storage where organizations have the only set of security keys.

Correct cloud configuration and continuous monitoring are also crucial aspects of cloud security. Misconfigurations often lead to accidental exposure. Through a diligent review of security settings, the information security team can focus on the proper configuration and reduce the risk of sensitive data in public storage buckets. They can also ensure that permissions are not overly broad.

Even with the best prevention strategies, a breach is possible. Every company using the cloud should have a dedicated incident response plan for cloud security issues; it must outline how to contain a breach, who to notify, and any legal obligations concerning customer data.

Broader Prevention Measures

Information leakage prevention goes beyond email and cloud-specific tactics. Frequent security awareness training for all employees, not just technical staff, is key. Clearly written policies should outline how employees handle sensitive data, including acceptable use policies for email and company devices.

Antivirus and anti-malware software on all company devices, coupled with diligent application and operating system patching, significantly reduce the risk of compromised data. Businesses can consider mobile device management solutions for remote security and control for company-issued mobile devices.

Organizations must routinely review accounts with privileged access, whether to administrative systems or highly sensitive data. They must limit these accounts as narrowly as possible, ensuring prompt deactivation when employees leave the company.

Finally, don’t overlook physical security. Server rooms should have security guards and cameras for remote monitoring. Companies should have policies enforcing screen locking for unattended devices. Consider implementing a clean desk policy to reduce the risk of leaving sensitive documents in plain view.

Secure Laptop (1)

How Can Cloudficient Prevent Information Leakage?

Protecting against information leakage aligns with Cloudficient’s core mission. Our cloud solutions feature advanced encryption, identity and access management, and continuous monitoring. Contact our team to learn more about our solutions and services.

With unmatched next generation migration technology, Cloudficient is revolutionizing the way businesses retire legacy systems and transform their organization into the cloud. Our business constantly remains focused on client needs and creating product offerings that match them. We provide affordable services that are scalable, fast and seamless.

If you would like to learn more about how to bring Cloudficiency to your migration project, visit our website, or contact us..

Compliance Migration

Similar posts