Did you know that the average cost of a ransomware attack due to a data leak is $4.62 million, slightly higher than the average data breach of $4.24 million? It’s scary to come across such statistics as data leaks not only incur monetary loss but also hamper your brand image.

Thus companies must educate their employees about what is a data leak and how to prevent it. This is because it’s an incident where someone exposes sensitive and confidential data unintentionally and unknowingly. 

So, read the blog till the end to know the data leak meaning and ways to avert hackers from misusing them. 

What is a Data Leak?

So, what is a data leak? A data leak happens when sensitive or confidential information is exposed to unauthorized entities due to internal errors or careless user behaviour. The usual reasons are poor data security and sanitization, unpatched software, old and unsecured devices, or lack of employee training. 

Data leaks lead to different types of cybercrimes, including business email compromise. Early detection and remediation can reduce its risk and impact significantly. This is because it’s hard to know if the data was accessed, which means all the sensitive details, source codes, consumer data, marketing strategies, etc., can be exploited with the intention of corporate spying.

What is the Difference Between Data Leak and Data Breach

People often use the terms data leak and data breach interchangeably; however, they aren’t the same. Although both incidents involve the exposure of confidential data to unauthorized entities, the cause of the revelation differs.

As per data leak meaning, it happens when sensitive data is unknowingly and unintentionally exposed to the public. Whereas a data breach is when a cyberattack is attempted to expose it.  

At times, the information disclosed in a data leak is misused to attempt an impactful data breach attack. Password data leak is one such example where an exposed password helps hackers log-in to accounts and devices to steal and intercept data. However, implementing a strong information security policy can prevent these incidents.

How does a Data Leak Happen?

As stated above, data leaks occur due to internal vulnerabilities and not cyberattacks. So, let’s review what are data leaks’ causes. 

Poor Infrastructure

You may not pay attention to misconfigured infrastructure, wrong settings or permissions, outdated software versions, etc., but these can potentially leak data. Ensure your IT team takes care of it to avert any mishappenings.

Social Engineering Scams

Social engineering is a cyberattack technique involving manipulation and deception to access a system or data. Threat actors use similar methods to create a data leak to launch bigger cyberattacks on an organization.

Poor Password Hygiene

Setting guessable passwords and reusing them for multiple accounts increases the risk of a data leak. So, always set a strong password that’s long and includes uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characteristics (like @,#,$,%,&, etc.)

Lost Devices

Losing a company’s device qualifies as a potential data breach. Malicious actors can access confidential data and sell it in the black market or to your competitors. It can also lead to identity theft.

Unpatched and Outdated Software

Unpatched and outdated software often leads to password data leaks, which can become a big cybersecurity threat to your company. Bad actors can plan and execute a zero-day attack to disturb your entire IT infrastructure or inject malware

Old Data

As the business grows, companies tend to be less organized in handling data (unless you’ve placed automated systems) and lose track of it. System updates and infrastructural developments can expose that old data.  

How Does Your Password Appear in a Data Leak?

There are billions of accounts, each of which is secured by passwords. When passwords are stolen or leaked, they are published online for other cybercriminals to try and use. In response to this cybersecurity problem, some databases now scan data breaches so that individuals and companies can be timely informed. 

How to Prevent Data Leaks?

Your data type and how you handle it differs from company to company; however, you can deploy preventive measures to minimize the potential of a data leak in your organization. You must remember that hackers don’t cause data leak, but they surely exploit them, incurring financial and reputational damage to your business. So, let’s see how you can avert them. 

Validate Cloud Storage Settings

Cloud storage is becoming more prevalent. Improper and unsecured transfer of data can lead to data leaks. So, if you’re a cloud storage user, you must validate its configuration at deployment and while hosting sensitive data. Regular monitoring decreases cybersecurity risks by notifying you about public access.

Get Rid of Old Data

Regularly sanitize files to get rid of data that are old or no more needed. This reduces the data that has to be managed for security. 

Educate Your Workforce

Educate your employees about being careful while handling data and reading signs of malicious emails. Also, levy penalties so that they are cautious.

Use Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication adds extra layers of security to your accounts. This means, apart from a username and password, you’ve to verify your identity through OTP, biometrics, answer a personal security question, etc. So, even if you’re a victim of a password data leak, multifactor authentication will restrict hackers from accessing your account.

Automate Process Controls

Software are better at maintaining uniformity than humans. So, adopt automated process controls to ensure all the data is stored securely. 

Monitor Third-Party Risks

Third-party vendors can mistreat sensitive details, leading to data leaks. So, even if it wasn’t you or your employee who was responsible for the incident, your company will be held accountable for the it. This can corrupt your image and even land you in legal trouble. 

Final Thoughts

A data leakoccurs when confidential details are exposed to unauthorized entities due to internal errors or careless user behaviour. Poor IT infrastructure, outdated and unpatched software, old devices, lost devices, social engineering scams, etc., are some ways of data leakage. 

You can prevent this by placing strict policies on careless data handling, using two-factor authentication, and automating control processes. 

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