How to Prevent Data Leakages

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With the exponential growth of data, propelled by the proliferation of digital technologies and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), organizations face unprecedented challenges in preserving the confidentiality, integrity and availability of their data assets.

In this context, data leakage detection and response solutions have emerged as critical components of a robust cybersecurity strategy. And to address these concerns, businesses must utilize advanced techniques to detect and respond to data leaks and safeguard valuable data assets.

Data Leak vs. Data Breach

A leak and a breach both involve unauthorized data disclosure, although there are differences in manner, scale and impact. Typically, when there is a data breach, there must have been an intentional malicious effort by an unauthorized party to gain access to sensitive information.

On the other hand, data leaks are accidental data exposures resulting from misconfigurations, system errors, insider threats, and inadequate security measures. However, being unintentional does not mean that data leaks pose less of a concern than data breaches.

This has been demonstrated by the accidental release of the personal data of 10,000 serving police officers and civilian staff at the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on August 8, 2023, raising huge safety fears for officers and their families.

Either situation can have serious security and financial implications for any organization. Although data leaks typically have a limited scope of impact, massive data from a breach can easily result in a leak when the attacker dumps sensitive information on the internet.

Causes of Data Leakage

Some factors that contribute to data leakage within organizations include:

  • Data storage, systems or network misconfiguration
  • Insider threats and poor access management
  • System crashes, bugs and errors
  • Obsolete software and tools
  • Social engineering attacks
  • Zero-day vulnerabilities.

How to Address Data Leakages

Attack Surface Monitoring 

According to cybersecurity industry analysts at Gartner, attack surface expansion was one of the top security and risk management trends in 2022, with risks having been exacerbated by the use of IoT devices, cloud applications, open-source code and even social media, among others.

The solution is not for organizations to reduce their digital footprint but to take responsibility and develop a greater capacity to identify potential vulnerabilities and entry points that attackers could exploit.

Data Detection and Response

Data detection and response (DDR) solutions are advancements to traditional data leak prevention programs because the former promotes data centricity. This allows greater visibility across the board as against the narrowed approach of traditional DLP, which causes it to be less reliable.

Instead of relying on detecting well-formed patterns, DDR solutions use advanced techniques such as machine learning and behavioral analytics to detect anomalous activities, suspicious patterns and potential data exfiltration attempts. As such, the DDR approach is better at capturing and mitigating zero-day exploits.

Data Leakage Prevention Policy

Organizations are guided by policy documents in all areas, and data security should not be an exception, especially as it pertains to data leakages. According to Ponemon Institute’s 2022 Cost of Insider Threats report, organizations spend an average of $15.4m annually due to insider threats, 56% of which are caused by negligence.

Enforcing a data leakage prevention policy company-wide is one of the first steps to mitigating threats caused by negligent insiders. Ideally, such a policy will define acceptable use of data, educate employees about data security best practices, and establish incident response protocols to address data leakage incidents effectively.

Endpoint Protection

The rapidly increasing number of endpoints across organizations globally has been a critical source of concern for years. Traditionally, security teams have tried to combat the cybersecurity challenges from this issue using antivirus software, host-based firewalls, intrusion detection systems and other signature-based security solutions.

Yet, these have not been as successful as many expected. In the Cybersecurity Insiders’ 2022 Endpoint Security report, 85% of organizations expect their security systems to suffer a compromising attack within the next 12 months, while 34% claimed not to have sufficient visibility into their endpoint landscape.

To avoid data leakages, organizations must prioritize advanced endpoint protection solutions to help defend against malware, unauthorized access and data exfiltration.

Privileged Access Management

If any set of users are most vulnerable to harmful data leakages, it is those with privileged access to critical systems and data. Therefore, it is much easier for attackers to identify and manipulate users’ vulnerabilities with elevated access privileges.

Beyond enforcing strong authentication and authorization mechanisms, it’s best to grant privileged access only on a need-to-know basis, and such access should be monitored.


By deploying these solutions, businesses can proactively safeguard their valuable data assets, enhance their incident response capabilities and maintain trust with their stakeholders.

If data is indeed the ‘new oil’, then it must be diligently protected in order to avoid it falling into the wrong hands. As more organizations take up this challenge, people will be better assured of the security of their data.

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