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The 9 Most Common Reasons for Data Leakage

If you've got servers full of senstive client data, you've got to make sure you're data is locked up like Fort Knox. Click here to learn about the 9 most common reasons for data leakage and how to prevent them.


In 2013, Yahoo experienced a data breach that put the information of over 3 billion users at risk. For perspective, this is a little bit less than half of the entire population of the Earth.

Other large companies have had serious data leakage events over the years. They include Target, Home Depot, Adobe, eBay, JP Morgan Chase and Equifax, just to name a few.

While these huge data breaches put millions of users' information in a compromising position, it goes to show that almost any company can be prone to data leakage.

Data leakages are often linked to monetary gain for the hacker, but they can occur for a wide variety of reasons.

Read on for the 9 most common reasons for data leakage and how to prevent them.

1. Weak Passwords

Although this seems like a no-brainer, weak passwords are often the culprit of data leaks. In fact, a Verizon study found that 48% of data breaches involved stolen passwords.

These passwords were either too easy to guess, or gained from phishing attacks or keylogging malware.

You can protect yourself from this by creating multi-factor authentication for all employees. These means no one can log into the system without also having to enter a code sent to their phone or second device. It also alerts you when someone is attempting to log in to the system.

2. Theft of a Company Item From Employee

Employee carelessness is an unfortunate, but common, cause of data breaches. These occur when they leave laptops or cell phones full of sensitive information somewhere vulnerable. If these items get stolen, the thief may leak sensitive data online.

This happens more often than you think. Apple, for example, has had many of their employees leave laptops, tablets or phones with information about upcoming models of new and anticipated technology. Recently, they had information about the 2018 model of their newest iPhone leaked, which is due for release in September.

3. Exploiting Vulnerabilities

Hackers who are set on hacking into a system will often exploit vulnerabilities in SQL injection backdoors. Although misusing buffer overflow vulnerabilities only accounts for 1 percent of incidents of hacking, it is still ranked as one of the top reasons sensitive information is leaked.

As a result, employees who work on security should use applications that can scan through the system. They can then identify any vulnerabilities and make work so that the database is heavily guarded and secured.

4. Accidentally Emailing Sensitive Information or Publishing It Online

Past data breaches have occurred when programmers have made a database available to the public, and to search engines, in error. This is when confidential information leaks and anyone can gain access to it until it's locked down. When this occurs, those who wish to hack the system or company screenshots or prints the confidential information so that they can use it in the future.

Another common human error occurs when an employee sends an email with sensitive information to the wrong person. If you've ever hit "reply all" to an email with hundreds of people in the chain, you know that sinking feeling. Imagine doing it when there's confidential information.

That kind of error is likely to occur at some point in your company's history. It can cause distrust with customers and release sensitive or confidential data to the public.

5. Malicious Attacks That Result in Data Leakage

Sometimes data breaches occur because someone has a vendetta against you or your company. They can exploit any loopholes, pinpoint weak security or figure out your passwords to achieve this.

Holding data hostage for a hefty ransom is one way these hackers operate. This way, they can earn easy money with the promise that they won't release sensitive information to the public. This is "ransomware," in which the hacker takes over the use of your computer or database until you pay a fee.

Some hackers participate in data leakages to gain access to government secrets or intel about competitors.

For example, in 2017, the British Home Office pinpointed North Korea as the mastermind behind the devastating "WannaCry" cyber attacks on the NHS (National Health Service). The motive is as much to gain information on their enemies as it is to try and bring down a vital service within the country.

6. Phishing

As mentioned above, phishing is a common way to gain access to people's information. Weak passwords combined with phishing schemes make hacking into a computer to leak data easy.

Phishing occurs when a website pops up asking a user for their login information for their bank, database or other sensitive sites. If you input your information and do not change the password, this can put your company's data at risk.

Your company should both use two-step authentication and change passwords on a monthly, if not weekly basis.

7. Loss of Paperwork

Human error is a huge reason for data leakage, and sometimes it doesn't even require logging onto a computer for it to occur. Data can leak the good old fashioned way: through paperwork.

If your employees don't carefully guard sensitive information, it can lead to theft. Hackers or thieves can scan the documents and upload them to the web in a matter of minutes.

8. Analogue Data Sent to Incorrect Recipient

Sending an email to the incorrect recipient can most definitely cause data leakages, but so can sending a hard copy to the wrong person. Faxing and mailing someone the wrong letter can cause data breaches. This info can be online and shared with the world in a matter of minutes.

9. System Glitches

Sometimes data leaks are not anyone's fault and not the result of a malicious attack. Instead, they can be due to application failures, accidental data dumps and errors in data transfer. While these accidents don't have a culprit, they can cause serious consequences.

How Do I Protect Myself and My Company?

There is no foolproof method for ensuring that you won't become a victim of data leakage, but you can take steps to make your information safer. Employing a security team, cutting down on employee carelessness, changing passwords often and using two-step verification are four of the best ways to make sure your data won't be at risk.

Read our blog for more information on curbing data breaches in the medical industry and how to protect yourself.

10 IT Security Threats Your Company Should Know


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