The Big Problem Of Company Data Leaks
Nowadays, data leaks / leakage poses huge problems for both companies and their respective customers. Personal and confidential data have become a currency in the market. The increasing interconnection of devices and systems has given us convenience and efficiency, but it has also brought with it great conflicts in terms of security, privacy and trust in the digital world. This is why the leak of company data is acquiring great relevance in our information society. In today’s post we will learn what exactly a data leak is and what cybercriminals usually look for with these actions.
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What is data leakage within an organization?
Data leak, also known as a security breach or data breach, could be defined as any security incident in which unauthorized persons gain access to sensitive data or confidential information, including personal or corporate data.
Typically, the terms data leak, data breach, and breach are often used interchangeably as synonyms for cyberattack. But it should be noted that not all cyberattacks are data breaches and not all data breaches are cyberattacks. For example, a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which crashes a website, is not a data breach or leak. In contrast, a ransomware attack that locks a company’s customer data and threatens to sell it if a ransom is not paid is a data breach.
However, a data leak occurs with the physical theft of hard drives, USB sticks or even paper files containing sensitive information, but cannot be considered a cyber attack.
Why does company data leaks occur?
Most of these types of attacks are motivated by the search for financial gain, although not always. The information they seek is used directly, sold to third parties or used to extort the companies themselves (for example, asking for a refund).
Sometimes attackers are more interested in causing serious damage to an organization and its reputation than financial gain. For example, the type of attacks carried out by attackers with the alias Anonymous are of that type.
In general, data leaks are usually caused by:
- Innocent mistakes in which an employee, for example, sends confidential information by email to the wrong person.
- Employees who act maliciously, either because they are angry or because they have been fired. It must even be taken into account that a worker may also be susceptible to bribery by third parties.
- Hackers who intentionally commit cybercrimes to steal data.
What are cybercriminals looking for with data leaks?
Hackers often steal credit card numbers, bank accounts, or other financial information to extract funds directly from customers and businesses.
They can also steal personally identifiable information (PII) – Social Security numbers and phone numbers. With this data they can carry out identity theft, request loans, open new credit cards, or simply sell that information on the Dark Web. Sometimes cybercriminals sell the data to other hackers, who use it for their own criminal purposes. Another highly sought after source of data is often protected health information.
Data leakage is not only limited to a company’s customer information. The leak of corporate information also poses a very high risk. This encompasses internal communications, performance metrics and business strategies. Disclosing this information can negatively impact projects, give competitors an inside view of a company, or reveal a corporation’s organizational culture. Additionally, fraudulent use of critical trade secrets, such as plans, formulas, or designs, can devalue products and services, as well as send years of research to the trash can.
Also Read: How Can I Become An Ethical Hacker?
How does company data leak happen?
In relation to how company data leaks happen, it seems that all of them follow the same basic pattern that is characterized by following the following steps:
The first thing hackers look for is a target, such as a company, and then they look for weaknesses they can exploit in your computer system or with your employees. They can also purchase previously stolen information malware that can grant them access to an organization’s network.
With an identified objective and a , the cybercriminal launches the attack. This may initiate a social engineering campaign, directly exploit vulnerabilities in the system, or even use stolen login credentials.
3. Compromise data
The hacker locates the data they are looking for and takes action. This may mean extracting data for use or sale, destroying data, or locking it with ransomware and demanding payment.
Data leaks, a big problem for its victims
By 2022, the global average for a data breach in the United States could reach almost $4 million, taking into account that almost 83% of attacked organizations had experienced more than one data breach. The breaches affected organizations of all sizes: businesses large and small, governments, and even nonprofits.
The consequences of these data leaks are particularly important in areas such as healthcare or government agencies, due to the value of the data handled (health information or official secrets) and the strict regulatory fines that exist in those sectors. For example, data breaches in the medical sector have been reported to cost an average of more than $10 million annually in the United States.
Some examples of company data leaks.
Some of the cyberattacks that large American multinationals have suffered in the past have been considered almost historic. This was the case of Yahoo, who in 2013 was the subject of the largest data leak in memory. Hackers exploited a weakness in Yahoo’s cookie system to gain access to the names, dates of birth, email addresses and passwords of nearly 1 billion users. The full extent of the breach did not come to light until 2016, when Verizon was in talks to buy the company.
Another major data breach case occurred in 2017. Hackers breached the credit reporting agency Equifax and accessed the personal data of more than 143 million Americans. Cybercriminals exploited an unpatched weakness in the website to gain network access and then broke into other servers to locate Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and credit card numbers. The attack cost Equifax $1.4 billion.
Also, something similar happened to Facebook, when in 2019 it faced a massive data leak that affected around 533 million users. This breach revealed vulnerabilities in the company’s data management and underscored the need for secure storage as well as the urgency of robust encryption practices for large social networks.
Among the most recent large data leaks is the one involving Zoom during the boom in demand for video conferencing in the 2020 pandemic. This vulnerability exposed the emails and passwords of more than 500,000 users. Cybercriminals took advantage of the opportunity to sell the information on the Dark Web, putting many users at risk, which showed that the stolen data has a high value on the black market.
In short, an updated and solid strategy that makes it easier for a company to protect its data is crucial. Implementing cybersecurity systems helps prevent problems that can become serious and costly in the long term. It is also useful in protecting an organization’s reputation and its business relationship with customers and suppliers.