Data leaks are a common cyber security threat. They describe the unauthorized release of company information to external recipients. Data leaks can either be accidental or intentional. For example, an employee can unintentionally share company secrets by sending emails to the wrong address or leaving their work laptop unattended. On the other hand, an employee can abuse company privileges by sending files to their flash drive or private cloud storage.
Regardless of their cause, data leaks can be the downfall of your business, presenting consequences such as financial loss, lawsuits, and reputational damage. Not to be confused with data breaches. Data leaks occur when insiders divulge sensitive company information. Conversely, data breaches result from cyberattacks initiated by outsiders. Here’s what to do if your business suffers a data leakage.
Assess the Damage
Check how the leak occurred and what data was exposed. Assuming you misspelled email addresses, find out the recipient’s identity and how they can use that information. Depending on the magnitude of the damage, you might need to bring several experts on board, such as IT professionals, legal teams, and crisis communication specialists.
Secure Your Systems
Seal your computer systems to prevent more data loss. For example, you can remove computers from the web until you address the cyber security threat. You can also ask your employees to change their passwords. The password changes should include other websites, not just the affected service. It’s not uncommon for hackers to use your login credentials on different websites. Ensure the new passwords are strong to prevent breaches. Secure passwords contain:
- Lower and upper case letters
- More than ten characters
Notify Affected Parties
Inform your customers and employees about the data leak. Although it’s difficult to admit fault, the leaked information might compromise the safety and privacy of the affected individuals. You might need to hire a communications team in the event of a large-scale leak. This goes together with notifying law enforcement. When government agencies know about the leak, they can minimize identity theft if you lose personal information.
Reduce Future Data Leaks
Though you cannot completely prevent data leaks, several measures protect company data from future attacks. Start by identifying sensitive information. You can classify consumer data, trade secrets, and company information and create a defense strategy for each category. You could also encrypt data to prevent access without the right decryption key. Another measure is evaluating your permissions; only trustworthy staff should handle sensitive data.
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