Are you worried about data leaving your business without your knowledge?

Cyber security is often viewed from the perspective of a besieged business keeping external attackers at bay. Although a significant amount of money can be lost to data breaches that originate outside of the organisation, that doesn't fully encompass the threat of data loss and leakage. Companies can inadvertently expose sensitive information and important data without any malicious intent.

Such scenarios can be just as costly and damaging as a cyber attack or data breach, especially for organisations that must comply with data privacy standards. Regulatory bodies don't care if protected data is exposed through malice or neglect – the end result is the same.

Business leaders must create mechanisms to monitor and control data to ensure it stays within the organisation at all times and avoid expensive data leaks.

What is data leakage?

Some organisations will use the terms "data breach" and "data leak" interchangeably, but there is an important difference between them. Breaches typically refer to the deliberate theft or access of information by an external party. Meanwhile, leaks occur when information leaves the organisation and is sent to an unauthorised user. That may be done intentionally or inadvertently, but in either scenario, the perpetrator is most likely an employee with access to the affected data. Generally speaking, data breaches work from the outside in and data leaks move from the inside out.

Data leakage can take many forms, such as:

  • An employee emailing company information to their personal account.
  • A staff member copying data to a USB, external hard drive or disc-based storage.
  • A worker attaching the wrong document or providing another client's details when responding to a customer request.
  • Users mismanaging application permission controls, giving third-party platforms access to sensitive data.

None of those scenarios involve malicious intent, but they are nonetheless harmful to businesses that need to protect both their data and their customers' information. Many consider the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal to be among the most noteworthy examples of data leakage, resulting in the exposure of personal information belonging to millions of Facebook users.

Data leaks can occur when employees transmit information to their personal devices.Data leaks can occur when employees transmit information to their personal devices.

How data leakage hurts businesses

Data leaks can wreak just as much havoc on a business as a cyber attack or data breach. If sensitive or proprietary data gets out into the open, organisations could be at risk for IP theft, regulatory violations, reputational damage and more.

Even relatively minor instances of data leakage can have a big impact on businesses. A client that receives documents or information belonging to another account may lose trust in their business partner and look for other options.

Organisations that must comply with industry or government regulations related to data privacy are also at significant risk of data leakage. In health care, some of the most common violations of the Privacy Act of 1988 involve hospital employees copying medical information to compromised personal laptops and removing them from the premises.

A major incident involving the exposure of customer information could cause irreparable damage to a brand's reputation. It can take years to rebuild trust once a data leak occurs, and there's no guarantee that organisations will be able to fully recover from these types of events.

Get control of your business data and prevent data leaks

Businesses need to gain full visibility across their entire IT landscape so they know exactly where their data is, who is using it and when it is moved. Data monitoring capabilities are an absolute must, especially as technology stacks and business environments become more complex. As your business grows, new applications, users and platforms are added to your IT systems, and that makes it much more difficult to keep track of everything. However, data monitoring solutions allow companies to maintain a watchful eye over their tech environments and ensure data doesn't leave their organisations.

Data control processes are another critical tool in the fight against data leakage. If employees have free rein to access, copy and move data as they please, there isn't anything to prevent them from transmitting sensitive information to a personal device, external drive or unauthorised user. With stronger data control mechanisms, businesses can spot attempts to move data outside of the organisation and stop potential leaks in their tracks.

Data leaks may not necessarily be malicious in nature, but they are incredibly harmful to business continuity and long-term company health. Business leaders must take steps to better control, monitor and maintain data to avoid falling victim to a costly data leakage incident.

Data security is an ongoing concern, and businesses should prioritise it accordingly. By working with a knowledgeable and experienced security partner, companies can rest easy knowing they are always following best practices and maintaining a strong security posture. Contact Biztech today to learn more about our computer security solutions and how our expert team can help secure your sensitive data.