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Top 10 Causes of Data Leaks and How To Stop It From Happening

A data leak causes many problems for organisations, whether big or small. In 2016, several big brands were hacked leading to some serious security concerns about the safety of customer information. Yahoo (December 2016), LinkedIn (May 2016), and MySpace (May 2016) were on the list of companies who experienced data security leaks last year. Even big brands are susceptible to data leaks but there are a few cautionary steps to take to secure your data.

As of May 25, 2018, the European Union (EU) is set to change its data protection laws for companies that possess the personal data of EU residents. The EU will be introducing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will apply to all companies doing business with EU customers. All organisations possessing EU customer data—no matter the location—can face huge fines if they do not comply with GDPR regulations.

The Top 10 Causes of Data Leaks

It is expected that those who carry out business with EU citizens will take care to mitigate the threats present in their infrastructures come May, 2018. However, all corporate organisations worldwide can protect themselves from some common data leaks, but they must identify the causes before fixing the problem. Below are the top 10 causes of data leaks in most organisations today:

1. Weak And Stolen Credentials

Tools like key-loggers, malware or phishing software are used in acquiring user credentials. These data leaks can be avoided if stronger passwords are used.

2. Configuration Error

At some point, a configuration error may occur, but ensuring that you have a fail-safe method of combating data loss is the best practice. All critical hardware should have a backup system and must be kept up to date.

3. System Hacks

If your systems or devices are vulnerable in your network, hackers can tunnel through. Data security experts always warn about the risks inherent in internal network security protocols and advise IT teams to restrict access to corporate networks from external IP’s. Although many companies follow the best practices, hackers are perfecting their strategies all the time, and IT security teams must be more proactive and up to date on the newest hacking techniques.

4. Lost or Stolen Computer or Device

This is arguably the most common cause of a data hack. A lost or stolen device is tricky to fix because the physical device is out of reach and the data, easily accessible by hackers.

5. Human Failure

Human failure is very frustrating because it can be avoided. An example of human failure is opening an email with a virus, that can expose your system to a data leak. It’s important to have a firewall or anti-virus in place to block these types of data breaches. You must also ensure that your company has a clear policy on system and content access.

6. Inside Job

You are vulnerable when there is a data leak from within your organisation. This can give access to 3rd parties from an external network. Security should be set up in a way that no single access point can cause a data leak

7. Social Engineering

These days hackers are cloaking their illicit activities with legitimate requests on social media. Training and awareness can help your employees avoid these new tactics and keep your network free of viruses and worms.

8. Poor security

Avoid too many network complexities and keep it simple. Create a network with sub-layers that will help keep your servers secure from hackers.

9. External connections

USBs, HDDs and even some cloud server connections can cause data leaks. The policy your organisation creates and abides by will help protect you and your customers.

10. Accidental Leak

Sometimes organisations could inadvertently leak customer information to the wrong 3rd party. This is different from an inside job or human failure because the data is only classified as breached if it is used for the wrong reasons.

As things stand, we are in a situation where the valuable commodity known as personal data is being collected by companies for free. What’s more, data is also acquired through some non-transparent means and sold without any legal framework.

The GDPR is a huge benefit to data holders and consumers in the EU and will ensure that companies and organizations treat the data they collect with better care and security.