7 Data Leakage Prevention Tips To Prevent the Next Breach


What is Data Leakage Prevention?

Data leakage prevention involves protecting the organization from various types of data leakage threats. Data leakage occurs when an agent transmits data to external parties or locations without authorization from the organization.

Data leakage can result from the actions of malicious insiders or the accidental actions of insider threats. Another common causes of data leakage are IT misconfigurations and external malicious attacks.

Organizations can prevent data leakage by implementing various tools, practices, and controls. For example, endpoint security, data encryption, and secret management can help enforce security measures that protect your data, in addition to continuous monitoring systems that push out alerts and regular audits performed by internal and external parties.

What Causes Data Leakage?

Here are a few common causes of data leakage:

  • Accidental leaks—a trusted individual who accidentally or unknowingly exposes sensitive data or shares it with an unauthorized user. Examples include sending an email with sensitive data to the wrong recipient, losing a corporate device, or failing to lock a corporate device with a password or biometric protection.
  • Malicious insiders—an employee or trusted third party who abuses their access to corporate systems to steal data. Malicious insiders might be motivated by financial gain, a desire for revenge, or may be cooperating with outside attackers. Examples include deliberately transferring sensitive documents outside the organization, saving files to a USB device, or moving files to unauthorized cloud storage.
  • IT misconfiguration—configuration errors often result in devastating data leaks, especially in cloud environments. Examples include excessive permissions, databases or cloud storage buckets without appropriate authentication, exposed secrets (such as credentials or encryption keys), and mistakes in integration with third-party services.
  • Malicious outsiders—an external attacker who manages to penetrate the organization’s systems and gains access to sensitive data. Attackers commonly use social engineering tactics to persuade employees to divulge their credentials or directly send sensitive data to the attacker. In other cases, the attacker infects corporate systems with malware, which can be used to gain access to sensitive systems and exfiltrate data.

How to Prevent Data Leakage

1. Know Where Your Sensitive Data Resides

To prevent data leakage, begin by identifying your sensitive data and its location in the organization. Decide which information requires the highest level of protection, and categorize your data accordingly. Once you are aware of sensitive data, you can take appropriate security measures, such as access control, encryption, and data loss prevention (DLP) software.

Increasingly, organizations are storing sensitive data in the cloud. Read our guide to cloud Data Loss Prevention (DLP)

2. Evaluate Third-Party Risk

Third-party risk is the threat presented to organizations from outside parties that provide services or products and access privileged systems. This risk is significant because third parties do not necessarily have the same protection and security standards as your organization, and you have no control over their security practices.

Here are some ways to monitor the risk of third parties:

  • Evaluate the security posture of all vendors to ensure that they are not likely to experience a data breach.
  • Conduct vendor risk assessments to ensure third-party compliance with regulatory standards, such as PCI-DSS, GDPR, and HIPAA, and voluntary standards like SOC-2.
  • Compile vendor risk questionnaires using questions from security frameworks, or use a third-party attack surface monitoring solution.

3. Secret Management & Protection

Secrets are privileged credentials used by software to access other software. Secrets refer to private data that is key to unlocking secure resources or sensitive data in applications, tools, containers, cloud, and DevOps environments. Both human users and software can access your secrets via your technology stack.

There are three ways software systems can access your organization’s secrets:

With intent—by purposefully connecting to other software (via APIs, SDKs, or the like) by granting access via a specific key, for example, a programmatic password and username.
By mistake—you provided misconfigured access to software where you did not intend to provide it—or granted the wrong level of access.
Via cyberattacks—attackers who should not have access will typically look for entryways into your software stack. They can find ways by identifying its weakest link. Attackers could do this by finding misconfigured or accidentally exposed secrets.

A comprehensive secret protection approach should not only secure but manage your secrets. You must also monitor code for improper use of secrets or accidental exposure, and remediate issues you discover.

4. Secure All Endpoints

An endpoint is a remote access point that communicates with an organizational network autonomously or via end-users. Endpoints include computers, mobile devices, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Most organizations adopt some remote working model. Consequently, endpoints are geographically dispersed, making them difficult to control and secure.

VPNs and firewalls provide a base layer of endpoint security. However, these measures are not sufficient. Malware often tricks employees into permitting attackers to enter an organizational ecosystem, bypassing these security measures.

Educate your staff to identify cyberattackers’ tricks, specifically those used for social engineering and email phishing attacks. Security education is a key strategy for preventing endpoint-related threats. Beyond education, modern endpoint protection technology can provide multi-layered protection for organizational endpoints.

Related content: Read our guide to endpoint protection platforms.

5. Encrypt All Data

Encryption is the conversion of data from readable information to an encoded format. Encrypted data can only be processed or read once you have decrypted it. There are two main types of data encryption: symmetric-key encryption and public-key encryption, the latter considered much more secure.

Cybercriminals will find it hard to exploit data leaks once you encrypt your data. However, sophisticated attackers might find ways to circumvent encryption, for example by gaining access to decryption keys, if they are not carefully managed. Attackers can also exploit systems or processes where data is stored or transmitted in plaintext.

6. Evaluate Permissions

Your sensitive data might currently be available to users that don’t require access. Evaluate all permissions to ensure you don’t give access to unauthorized parties.

Categorize all critical data into different levels of sensitivity, controlling access to different pools of information. Only trusted employees who currently need access should have permission to view highly sensitive information. This process of reviewing privileges can also reveal any malicious insiders who obtained access to sensitive data with the goal of exfiltrating it.

Related content: Read our guide to endpoint privilege management

Data Leakage Prevention with Hysolate

Hysolate’s fully managed isolated Workspace sits on end user devices, but is managed via granular policies from the cloud. These granular policies give admins full control for monitoring and visibility into potential data leakage risks, including sending telemetry data to their SIEM. Admins can limit data transfer out of the isolated encrypted Hysolate Workspace via copy/paste/printing/peripherals, and can set anti keylogging and screen capture policies, as well as setting up a watermark to block external screen capture.

Hysolate provides:

  • An additional layer of data leakage protection for both corporate and non corporate devices, including telemetry sent to SIEM solution for additional monitoring and visibility.
  • Admins can set policies to limit data transfer in and out of the Hysolate Workspace, including files, documents and applications.
  • Hysolate has security capabilities to lock the Workspace and enter only with a PIN.
  • Hysolate’s Workspace can also be set with a watermark, to remove risk from external screen capture.
  • Admins can wipe the Workspace OS remotely if a threat surfaces, or when it is no longer needed.

Employees can be provided with an isolated Workspace on their corporate device, so that they can access sensitive systems and data from a completely isolated and secure environment. Policies can be set to limit data exiting the Workspace, either accidentally or on purpose.

For contractors, Hysolate’s isolated OS solution provides a secure Workspace to access the necessary data and applications they need to do their jobs. The Workspace can be pre-provisioned with all the required applications and policies that are required for the contractor to connect to and work in the corporate environment. At the end of the contractor’s engagement, the Hysolate Workspace can be instantly deprovisioned remotely without leaving any data on the contractor’s device

Try Hysolate Free for Sensitive Access for yourself.