What Is Data Leakage and Why CIOs Must Prioritize Its Prevention
While ransomware may dominate mainstream media headlines, another related issue can be just as or more damaging to a business or organization. Data leakage, which involves the unapproved transmission of data from an organization to third parties, can occur for several reasons, including ransomware attacks. Data leakage frequently occurs due to businesses’ failing to encrypt data being transmitted or transported from one endpoint to another and said data being intercepted by a third party. It may stem from faulty or outdated network security protocols or an employee losing an unsecured laptop. However, no matter how and why data leakage occurs, it can have disastrous results for your business.
Whether through the loss of a physical device or a beached network, the data you lose could affect your reputation, revenue, and compliance with regulations. For example, if you lose confidential client information, you’ll lose your client’s trust and business and potentially face damaging press and legal liability. Or you might lose intellectual property, which could compromise your competitive advantage. And if you lose certain types of information, you may face legal action stemming from your failure to comply with industry- or jurisdiction-specific data security regulations.
Your data loss may also stem from the unauthorized distribution of an employee’s access credentials. In these cases, your data loss and its impact depend on the employee’s level of access and the strength of your internal security protocols. For example, suppose you have implemented least-required-access policies that ensure employees only have access to the minimum corporate resources they need to perform their duties. In that case, the loss of a low-level employee will not result in too much damaging data loss. However, if a high-level employee or member of leadership loses their access credentials, your organization will likely face serious problems.
Cyberattacks may not be preventable. But most post-incident analyses illustrate deficits in data security policies that helped the attackers succeed. Even if data loss has occurred for a reason other than a cyberattack, a careful evaluation will likely uncover security weaknesses. And when leakage occurs, proper risk mitigation measures can be the difference between limited and catastrophic data loss.
Data leakage is not new, although it has become an increasingly crucial issue for CIOs to manage in recent times. Cyberattacks continue to grow in scope and sophistication as online financial transactions proliferate. Unfortunately, many business leaders still take a wait-and-see approach to cybersecurity. And the pandemic-driven shift to remote work makes the device and network management harder for many businesses, especially those without firm data security protocols across the organization.
The Great Resignation has also heightened the leakage risk for employers, especially those with BYOD policies. A departing employee with corporate information on their personal device presents a security risk. Many employers have not installed data monitoring software or implemented other measures to help prevent data leakage. Even for employers without BYOD policies, rapid turnover in an organization can make proper device management difficult.
These recent developments, coupled with shifts towards cloud-based network solutions, have increased the prevalence of data leakage across businesses of all sizes. Cloud-based solutions necessitate that CIOs implement multiple security protocols, from multi-factor authentication to encryption to regular security permissions reviews. But data downloaded to a personal device or compromised cloud access credential still present data leakage risks. And while CIOS can apply CIA Triad principles vigorously to written security plans, it’s far harder to do so consistently in practice without impeding employee performance of their duties. And it becomes far harder when decentralized work locations are taken into account.
Further, many businesses do not devote resources to regularly train and refresh their staff on best practices for data security. In fact, 4 in 10 Canadians say they receive no cybersecurity training at work. No matter how strong a company’s cyber defenses are, the weakest link is always the end-user. This axiom perhaps holds even more true with data leakage than with corporate network security.
To mitigate the risk of data leakage, you must rigorously train your employees at all levels to keep their data secure. Such training extends beyond recognizing phishing attacks and should reinforce with employees fundamental practices such as data security practices, such as not transmitting sensitive information via email.
Data security training should also extend to how one must secure devices and credentials that contain or can provide access to corporate data. It also requires physical and data security policies to be aligned and comprehensive. If your employees work primarily onsite, you can prevent some data leakage simply by placing restrictions on removing hardware from your corporate offices. But even if you have a partially or fully remote workforce, you can implement and reinforce policies that govern how data is to be used, monitor devices you own or that access your network, and enforce disciplinary penalties for noncompliance.
Further, mitigating the risk of data leakage effectively involves recognizing that doing so is a continuous process. Assumptions, policies, and practices should be tested and retested. Incidents should be thoroughly evaluated, and lessons learned incorporated into existing plans. And IT security personnel must keep up-to-date with best practices in data security to keep pace with emerging vulnerabilities and threats.
Of course, end-users are but one area of vulnerability. Businesses of all sizes must use best-in-class network and device security measures to prevent third parties from capturing their data while limiting the scope of data loss if a device is misplaced or stolen. Such measures are constantly evolving to match the increasingly advanced methods in use by today’s cybercriminals.
Working with an experienced MSP like 365 Technologies should be part of your data security plan. A leading provider in Manitoba, we leverage our deep cybersecurity expertise and resources to keep intruders out of corporate networks. And we use our experience working with businesses in multiple industries to help advise and shape corporate data security plans to mitigate the risk and scope of leakage in all circumstances.
We know how important your data is to your business. So we focus on protecting your data so you can focus on running your business. Contact us today, and let’s discuss how we can help you mitigate the risk of data leakage and prevent catastrophic data loss.