What is Data Leakage? How You Can Prevent It?

While most of us are braced up for data breaches conducted by a threat actor, we have little to no worries about data leakage. But data leaks can lead to a major data incident if leveraged by a hacker. Here we will know about data leakage, its impact and how to prevent it as well.


Data leakage happens when sensitive data is unintentionally exposed. For example, someone exposes data while sending mail, chatting or at API calls. Data leakage is also caused by unprotected databases, misconfigured cloud storage or lost devices. Sometimes, you can disclose it while taking screenshots, printing or clipping.

But data leak is not a form of a data breach. However, a data leak can lead to a data breach. The key difference is that a data leak happens unintentionally out of sheer ignorance while a data breach is purely a hacking attempt.

How Can Data Leaks Be Problematic?

Data leakage can be troublesome as we don’t have ideas who have access to the data once it has been exposed. What if it is exposed to a cyber-criminal? They can use it to launch various kinds of cyber-attacks.

Even though data leaks don’t cause a direct breach in most cases, they are still a concern.


Learn to Classify and Discover Your Data:

Use a tool that can automate the process of discovery and classification of your sensitive data. Once it is done, you can remove useless and redundant data to streamline your data protection strategy. The classification of data will simplify it to assign the appropriate controls and keep track of how users interact with your sensitive data.

Take Care of Access Rights:

Make sure only the authorized people have the access to your sensitive data. It will minimize the risk of data leakage as the process involves fewer and more accountable people.

Use an Email Content Filtering Device:

Use a content filtering tool to sort out sensitive data in images, text and attachments in emails. If sensitive data is detected, it will notify the administrator.

Control the Printing Process:

Sometimes sensitive files are stored on printers that might be accessible for everyone. Therefore, ask the users to sign in to access the printer. Limit the use of a printer for an unauthorized party if the device is used for the scanning and copying of sensitive documents. Also, make sure that the users don’t leave the hard copy of sensitive data in the printer tray.

You will also need to make sure that user’s don’t leave any printed documents containing sensitive data in the printer tray.

Controlling the Device:

Many users store their sensitive information on smartphones and tablets. Apart from creating the device management policies, you are required a solution that can track and control what devices are being used, and by who.

Mobile Device Management or MDM software can also be used to make it easier for your IT department to execute the policy of using a complex password, device maintenance and the control of the application installed on the device.

Configure Your Cloud Storage:

Sometimes, the misconfigured storage repositories can lead to data leaks. For instance, many data incidents were reportedly caused by Amazon S3 buckets being exposed to the public by default. Similarly, GitHub repositories and Azure file share have become notorious for exposing data with their poor configuration. Therefore, it is extremely important to validate the configuration of any cloud storage service you are using.

Keep Track of Data:

Also, keep track of modifications, access and other activities associated with your sensitive data. The data admin should be informed when and what actions were performed on sensitive data, including accessing, moving, sharing, removing and modification.

Invest in Cyber Security Training:

The biggest reason for data leaks is perhaps the negligence of a person in charge. Maybe they lose their pen drive storing confidential pieces of information. Or they can leave a printed document in the printer tray.

And emailing sensitive data to the wrong recipient is the biggest blunder. That’s why it is important to educate your employee on data security practices to minimize such costly mistakes.

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below!

About Ng Wei Khang

Ng Wei Khang, CEO at a Singapore based IT consultancy company, APIXEL IT Support, has been operational for over 8 years from now. Apixel provides fixed price IT Support Services with unlimited packages that includes small business server setup, Cloud Solution Configuration, Network management and Data security & Theft prevention. The company also provides expert IT consultancy to SMEs in Singapore.

View all posts by Ng Wei Khang →

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