If you mention data leakage to most people, they may think that it sounds like a problem for a plumber, but the phrase “data leak” has specific and troubling concerns for a business. Data leakage is a particular security threat, and there are many sources for data leaks.
Data Breach Versus Data Leak
- Data breaches occur when an attacker from outside your organization gets into your IT ecosystem and steals private or sensitive information.
- Data leaks occur from the inside out. This happens when someone inside the organization shares confidential data with unauthorized recipients or leaves a gap that enables that information to be easily accessed by people who shouldn’t see it.
Data leaks can originate from a variety of sources; a quickly sent email, a seemingly innocent comment in a chat room, or even a comment on social media posted with the best of intentions. In professional settings, information in a support ticketing system or information transferred to a personal web portal account can also result in a data leak. Generally, anywhere that data travels has the potential for leakage if the proper precautions are not observed. Like a data breach, a data leak can have a lot of unpleasant consequences. It can result in lawsuits and regulatory penalties. Unfortunately, it’s often due to unwitting human error, an accident.
Why Do These Mistakes Happen so Often?
Multi-tasking and moving too quickly can be the primary reason for data leakage. This is also the reason why phishing is such a successful technique; it preys on busy people and manipulates them into revealing data that they would otherwise protect. This insidious technique is true of most social engineering scams.
The Best Defense
Our best front-line defenders against data leaks are people. Many cybersecurity prevention methods rely on people to form a strong foundation of the security culture. We can be one of the strongest first alert systems.
In the hierarchy of cybersecurity, some priorities rank much higher than others. While there are excellent technical methods available to eliminate data leaks, many organizations are not far along enough in their cybersecurity journey to undertake those solutions. Like all cybersecurity plans, the key to successful implementation is to progress in phases. We can be part of the easy solutions, helping our organizations to move on to more advanced methods.
Simple Steps to Help Prevent Data Leaks
Be in the moment and mindful of your next steps. Mindfulness is, above all, being aware and awake rather than operating unconsciously. Sometimes this just means to stop and verify. This is particularly true when sending email. Sometimes, a topic can expand as it is being written, and it may include more information than originally intended, leading to potential leakage. One technique to prevent the data from going to the wrong recipient is to write the full message and only add the recipients when you are ready to send it. This way, you can carefully consider if the content is being shared with the appropriate audience.
Don’t Co-mingle Your Address Books
It may be convenient to have your personal address book mixed in with your corporate address book, but this can lead to data leaks. If you accidentally post something to your best friend, it doesn’t matter that it will be treated as a funny mistake and immediately deleted. The violation is with the process. Once that message is posted, the violation has occurred.
Be a Single-tasker
This means doing one task at a time. There is ample research available that proves that we are not only incapable of multitasking, but we are further slowed by task-switching. One dire example of supporting evidence for this fact is the abundance of distracted driving incidents. In a less dramatic example, something as simple as trying to work on two projects simultaneously can often result in data leaks.
Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast
Being in a panicky rush leads to bad decisions and is a misuse of energy. This results in potential errors that need to be revisited. Most of our decisions in the corporate world are not matters of life and death and need not be done at lightning speed. In fact, one could argue that each task has probably been done over and over again, resulting in a carefully practiced and orchestrated action. The effort to undo a mistake erases all the speed that was hoped to be gained by speed.
It’s All About Us
Does it seem that every method to combat data leakage is centered around our deliberate actions? Sometimes, our efforts to prove how efficient we are can result in us being our own worst enemy. Efficiency is best exhibited with accuracy.
If you’re interested in some further reading, find out how to secure your mobile device to prevent leaks from there.