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What Is Data Leakage?

Best Practices on Data Leakage Prevention.


Data leakage, frequently called information leakage, is the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive data from within a company’s network secured perimeter to an external recipient. Data leakage can happen in many ways and can be unintentional or intentional.

What Can Cause a Data Leak?

A data leak can happen either electronically or physically via USB drives, cameras, printers, etc. Here are the most frequent causes of data leaks:

System Misconfiguration

Information leakage can happen because of a system misconfiguration. Here are some examples:

  • Transition to remote work and improper configuration of tools and databases employees need access to during this process can leave security gaps in the system which might eventually lead to exposure of critical data;

  • Software error: let’s take the example of that software error found in the Denmark government tax portal. This led to the exposure of tax ID numbers belonging to 1.26 million Danish citizens.

Unintentional Data Leak

A data leak does not have to be intentional. It might happen because an employee sends confidential data by mistake to the wrong recipient.

Another way data could be leaked is by the negligence of the user, such as forgetting to log out of an account or losing a laptop with sensitive information on it.

Intentional Information Leakage

Another case of information leakage is when an ill-intentioned employee chooses to deliberately share confidential information with an unauthorized third party. This is also often called data exfiltration.

An example of intentional data leakage could be the case of the Tesla Quality Assurance software engineer who transferred thousands of files with trade secrets to a personal Dropbox account.

Obviously, not every cyber attack also includes data leakage in its set of goals. But many of them do, including:

Data Leakage Examples

Facebook Data Leak 2021

A famous example of data leakage is the Facebook data leak 2021. A user from a low-level hacking forum leaked personal data of over 533 million Facebook users in 106 countries including phone numbers, Facebook IDs, full names, locations, birthdates, biographies, and email addresses.

Apple Data Leak

Researchers from Fingerprint.js revealed publicly on January 14, 2022 details about a bug in the WebKit browser engine that left the way open for Apple data leaks like browsing history and Google IDs. The flaw was discovered in the implementation of IndexedDB, which is a Javascript API for data storage. Malicious websites could use the exploit to view URLs that a user had recently visited, as well as the Google User ID, which can be used to find user personal info.

However, Apple patched this vulnerability dubbed CVE-2022-22594 later on in Safari 15.3 for iOS and macOS.

Why Is Data Leakage Prevention Important?

Data leakage prevention is important because this way you avoid a series of both short-term and long-term consequences.

Short-Term Consequences

The short-term consequences of a security breach within your company are threefold:

  • Mitigation costs;

  • Fines and fees;

  • Federal investigations.

Long-Term Consequences

Still not convinced that data leakage prevention is the only viable choice? Let’s have a look at the three long-term consequences this type of cyberattack will have on your company:

  • Damaged reputation;

  • Loss of customer trust;

  • Diminished morale.Wrapping Up…

In a digital landscape dominated by information leakage and unlawful network access, data leakage prevention is the strategy your company needs to stay one step ahead of hackers at all times. This complex approach has three principal pillars: proper policies, knowledgeable employees, and innovative solutions. Heimdal Security can help you with the latter, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you require a robust roster of cybersecurity products.

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