Data Leakage: What is It & How to Secure Your Data

By Haseeb Awan

Not so long ago, the revolutionary mobile industry changed the global technology landscape, making smartphones omnipresent and promoting the growth of an application-based ecology. With more than 2.9 million applications in the Google Play Store, users can leverage innumerable opportunities and facilities.

While the future looks bright, the extraordinary growth in mobile app usage brings forth data leaks threats. The handheld-ingenious devices are not inherently secure about processing the stored data, making it an easy target for a criminal to steal your data and put it to malicious use. 

A survey shows that nearly 14-25+ popular and free mobile applications for android secretly leak users' sensitive data, such as contact numbers, usernames, messages, photos, etc., to remote servers.

Therefore, your business needs a strong strategy of cyber security as well as mobile application security to prevent data theft.

What is A Data Leak?

Data leakage occurs when sensitive data is exposed electronically or physically over the Internet or by losing smartphones, hard drives, or laptops.

Although the terms “data leak” and “data breach” are often used interchangeably, the two are different types of data exposure:

  • Data leak is the unauthorized transfer of data exposed on the Internet and usually stems from poor practices of data security but does not require cyber attacks.
  • A data breach occurs when an attacker successfully deploys the cyber attack to gain access to confidential data. 

Data leaks can cause data disclosure to third parties due to poor security policies leading to a substantial financial loss. Moreover, if a cyber criminal detects a data leakage, it can be used to develop a large-scale cyber-attack. 

According to the survey, more than 71% of mobile devices have critical-risk apps installed that monitor users' activity or lead to data leakage. If data is exposed, there is a high chance that the company's data, websites, and other data activity may be copied or shared for misuse. 

Here are the different data leak forms that allow unauthorized access to confidential leaked data.

  • Cloud leak: It is the most common type of data leak. A cloud leak occurs when unsecured cloud servers are exposed and data is disclosed to the Internet. 
  • Portable Device leak: If an unencrypted mobile device such as laptops, smartphones, USBs, and other devices that contains sensitive information are lost, the data could be leaked without the knowledge of the individual and organization.

Early detection and remediating of data leak gaps can significantly reduce data security risk.

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Cyber Attacks That Cause Data Leak 

Several malware attacks lead to data leakage. Some of them are:

  • Data Theft
  • SQL Injection
  • Password sniffing
  • Phishing
  • Social Engineering
  • Browser Hijacking and more

An attacker using leaked data exploits it in many ways:

  • Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attack happens when an attacker tricks the target into divulging private data and personal information. The most specific effective type of social engineering is called "spearphishing." The intruder sends a fake email to impersonate a higher authority based on known details. 

Hackers use spearphishing to target an individual within an organization, sending an email that purports to be from a VIP in the company or, in most cases, from a bank, asking to share confidential information. The information in data leak leads, particularly behavioral data, is precisely the type of data needed to launch effective social engineering attacks. 

Moreover, the high percentage of the human factor in data leakage and data theft is alarming. Employees are the main reason and threat to the company's data. Even though cyber criminals have improved their methods and tools to steal data, unfortunately, that data is inadvertently passed on by employees.

  • Leaked Credentials

Usually, users receive services credentials (such as passwords, usernames, and associated emails) in their inbox. By hacking your account, cyber criminals will gain access to all your other accounts.

  • Doxxing

Doxxing or doxing is researching and disclosing identifying information about someone, such as their real name, home address, phone number, and other personal data. Attackers use doxing to defame someone, prosecute, or harass. It has become a severe cyber security threat and may cause actual harm to individuals and businesses.

  • Identity Theft

The offender can use personal information such as an address, date of birth, and social security number to open a credit card account on your behalf. Identity has catastrophic consequences, from reducing your saving to being convicted for fraudulent crimes and significant financial loss.

How to Prevent Data Leaks and Secure Your Data?

Enforce Password Security Policy

Having a strong password is your first-line defense against external and internal cyber attacks. To secure your data, make sure company passwords are unique, impossible to guess, different passwords for every account, and encrypted.

Strong passwords are mutual efforts to secure your data and prevent data leakage.

Use Encryption Keys

Sensitive data needs to be encrypted. However, you need the encryption keys provided by the app to encrypt and use all your information further. Encryption goes beyond preventing unauthorized access to your mobile phone's data. Even if the hackers manage to bypass the lock screen, encrypting your data will make it unreadable.

Read How to Encrypt Data on Your Phone.

Device Control

Users often store sensitive documents and private credentials on smartphones and tablets. Users should use the mobile device management (MDM) software as this will facilitate complex passwords, remotely access and manage your device, and control the installation of applications on your device. Users can also remotely wipe the contents stored in the device if it gets lost or stolen with the help of the MDM solution.

Limit Browsing

Browsing the Internet on a smartphone can significantly expand the device's area of attack. Limit browsing and be extra careful of what information you share online, fill in forms, and on which websites. 

Mobile Applications Vulnerability Check

Hackers continue to target mobile apps, searching for vulnerabilities and loopholes, another prime source of data loss. Users should perform mobile app vulnerability checks to ensure they are up to date and receive security updates on time.

Security Awareness Training

As mentioned earlier, the human factor is primarily to blame for data leaks. Employee negligence may include sending sensitive and confidential data by email to the wrong recipient, leaving the printed document in the printer tray, storing sensitive data on the mobile, and losing the USB drive. 

The most effective way to mitigate the number of mistakes made by employees is to educate them about data leaks and set up a data security awareness training. The training will help employees to handle the company's data better.

Wrapping Up!

The fight against data leakage is a constant struggle that calls for round-the-clock vigilance. Poor security mobile, mobile applications, and other devices result in data leakage, reputation damage, financial loss, and online privacy violation. A data leakage prevention strategy is what your business needs to secure your online data at all times.

It's always good to protect yourself and your business from hackers and protect your phone with Efani and cutting-edge solutions.

Also, Read How to Restrict Data Usage on Phones.