Top 3 Different Types of Data Leaks

Data leaks are serious security issues in the cyberworld. They refer to the unauthorized exposure of sensitive information to third parties. More often than not, the term “data leak” is used interchangeably with “data breach.” 

But they aren’t exactly the same. While data leaks don’t gain as much attention as data breaches, they can be just as devastating to your business. 

This can lead to a damaged reputation, declining revenue, and substantial financial penalties. Understanding the different types of data leaks and data leak prevention strategies is vital to maintaining robust cybersecurity.

Data leaks can be accidental, intentional, or due to human negligent behavior. This article explores everything you need to know about the different types of data leaks.

Accidental Leaks

Unauthorized data leaks aren’t always malicious or intentional. In most cases, data leakage happens unknowingly. Below are some accidental cases of leaked data

Sending Sensitive Emails to the Wrong Recipient

One of the simplest and most significant causes of data leakage is sending sensitive emails to the wrong recipient. This might be because the employee is impatient or typed an error. A typical example happened in the Dutch Municipality Assen, where staff sent a file containing over 530 Personal Identifiable Information records to the wrong email address. 

The data leak would’ve been prevented if the employee had double-checked the email address before clicking the send button. Organizations should implement email security best practices to prevent leaked data via email. 

Email Address of all Recipients in CC

When you put an email address in the CC (Carbon Copy) section, you’re sending a copy of the message to that email address. However, email addresses in the CC section are usually public. A typical example also happened in the Dutch Municipality Assen, where a person sent an email with all recipient addresses in the CC instead of the BCC. 

An email address is part of sensitive information, so it should be kept private. A hcker can use a dictionary or a brute force attack to breach an account, especially when the users use weak passwords.

Intentional Leaks

While most types of data leaks happen accidentally, an employee can also intentionally leak sensitive data. Some cases of intentional data leakage can occur via:

A Frustrated and Ill-Intentioned Employee

Sensitive data leaks don’t only happen through electronic sources; they also occur via removable USBs, photocopiers, printers, cameras, and dumpster diving. Employees have access to sensitive information, and there’s nothing stopping them from disclosing it to cybercriminals, especially if they’ve been promised huge payouts. A company that doesn’t treat its employees well is likely at a higher risk of this data leak type.

External Communications with Malicious Intent

Organizations allow access to the internet and external communication tools like email and instant messaging, which allows file transfers and internet downloads. Cybercriminals can infect these mediums with malware to steal sensitive data and compromise organizations’ networks. 

For example, a hacker can spoof a business email account (whether that of the CEO or a level-C executive) to request sensitive information or authorize a huge transfer from the finance or accounting department. 

Another popular cyberattack that leads to breached or leaked data is phishing. Here, cybercriminals trick employees into clicking a malicious link that allows an attacker to compromise the system and commit data theft. One of the best ways to prevent data loss in these scenarios is by implementing strict cybersecurity guidelines and training employees on the latest cyber threats.

Negligent Behavior

Negligent behavior from employees can also lead to data leaks. Your staff must be aware of their responsibilities and how to prevent data leaks during their day-to-day tasks. Some negligent behaviors leading to data leaks include:

Using a Weak Password

Most employees are careless about their passwords. Creating a strong and unique password across all accounts can be overwhelming, but it’s the best way to deny hackers access to sensitive company data. 

Regular password changes are also recommended. Mandate good password hygiene and use a trustworthy password manager to mitigate such risks. 

Flaws in Email Security Policies

Email security best practices are one of the most effective preventive measures. Implement a policy that explains how the corporate email system should and shouldn’t be used, the importance of data loss prevention, and the associated consequences When there’s a flow, and security experts are negligent about it, data leaks can occur.

Unpatched Vulnerabilities in Software

Vulnerabilities are weaknesses that cybercriminals exploit to access sensitive information or compromise organization systems. Carry out regular software updates and ensure every vulnerability is patched immediately.

Shadow IT

Most companies have officially sanctioned IT tools, apps, and programs, but employees don’t always follow the rules. It’s not uncommon for them to find better workarounds to complete tasks—even if it means using unsanctioned SaaS platforms, web applications, and cloud technology. 

While their intentions may be good, the results can be severely damaging. Confidential corporate data can be left exposed, hackers can access enterprise networks through unsecured access points, and major data leaks can occur. 

Restrict access and downloads of unapproved tools and programs on corporate devices, and implement security alerts to flag abnormal activity on your corporate network. Most importantly, discuss these issues with your staff and update your protocols regularly.

Final Thoughts

Data leaks are security issues that organizations should address with caution. They can cause severe damage to business operations, and proper measures must be implemented. So, what is data loss prevention in this scenario? 

Well, understanding the various types of data leaks is the first step. Once you’re familiar with the types, you can implement the necessary measures and take charge of your corporate data.


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