Detecting Data Leakage: Why It Matters, and How the Dark Web Can Help

Why does data leakage pose a major and challenging threat to today’s businesses and organizations? One key reason is the wide variety of ways it can happen. Sensitive information can leak out through any number of channels, for many different purposes, and it can then find its way into the hands of various types of threat actors all around the world. 

And just like data leakage can take place in a wide variety of formats, it can affect nearly any type of company. 

The good news? If your data is leaked in a way that could put your company at risk, there’s a good chance that the threat actors behind that risk will communicate in somewhat predictable ways. And, because the dark web is the go-to channel for threat actors around the world to communicate online, monitoring its underground forums can seriously boost your ability to detect any data leakage that should concern you. As this post will explain, taking full advantage of threat intelligence from the dark web can help companies to detect data leaks promptly. 

But first, let’s take a look at what data leakage is and the various forms it can take.

 

What does data leakage look like?

As open-ended as the term data leakage is, there are some particularly common ways that it occurs. Here are some of the leaders:

  • Phishing attacks, in which a threat actor deliberately uses impersonation in an attempt to trick a victim into revealing sensitive information.
  • Physical exfiltration of data, in which information is released via USB drives, printed pages, or other media (digital or otherwise).
  • Insider attacks, in which an employee, contractor, or other individual with privileged access to a company’s sensitive information is enticed to reveal sensitive information – whether driven by greed, ideology, or simply resentment toward the company.
  • Accidents, in which an individual fails to take proper precautions and unwittingly leaves sensitive information exposed. 

 

Of course, many data leaks can fit into more than one of these categories – such as in the case of an insider who deliberately exfiltrates sensitive data physically. And even within these categories, data can leak out in a wide variety of ways. For example, an accident could be quite complex, or it could be as simple as leaving a printed page with sensitive information in a publicly visible location. 

Still, as varied as data leaks can be, there are certain characteristics they generally have in common – most importantly, the risk they pose to the affected companies and organizations  (as well as their customers).

 

Why is data leakage so dangerous for a business or organization?

Some of the ways that a data leak could hurt a company are obvious and relatively consistent over time. Any of the company’s own proprietary and sensitive information that is revealed – anything from company credit card numbers to trade secrets and future business plans – could hurt the company’s ability to function and profit. 

But where the last several years have really upped the ante is in terms of the protection of customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). With privacy regulations like the GDPR and the CCPA dramatically increasing the penalties companies could face for failing to adequately protect their customers’ data, businesses now have a new and major financial incentive to invest in data leakage prevention and detection. Meanwhile, companies that fall victim to high-profile data leaks risk losing their customers’ confidence – and their business – due to the bad press generated by these incidents.

 

So, how can you protect your company?

There are important steps businesses can take to decrease the chances of suffering from data leakage. Technological solutions can make it harder for threat actors to access a company’s sensitive information, but even a single employee’s failure to follow best practices can create a significant cybersecurity risk.  

That’s why education is an essential tool for preventing insiders from inadvertently leaking sensitive data. For instance, employees need to know the basics of how to spot a phishing email, as well as what to do if they suspect they have received one. Still, we all know that even well-trained employees and other insiders sometimes make mistakes – and all the training in the world won’t help if an insider is deliberately trying to leak a company’s information.

That reality makes data leakage detection especially important. The idea is to find out that some of your data has leaked as quickly as possible after the leak occurs – especially if the initial leak could result in additional cyber threats in the future, as in the case of stolen credit card numbers that can then be used to commit theft. 

To really disrupt the ability of hackers and other threat actors to profit off of data leakage at your company’s expense, it is important to keep in mind the role that the dark web plays in the cybercrime economy. Because many hackers and cybercriminals are motivated by their own financial interest, they often turn to the dark web not only to communicate with other threat actors, but also to buy and sell leaked data and other assets. 

The upshot for cybersecurity professionals? More than just a scary place where bad actors hang out online, the dark web can be a rich source of cyber threat intelligence. And being able to automatically scour threat intel with dark web monitoring tools gives a serious boost to a company’s ability to quickly detect data leakage.

While that kind of visibility cannot guarantee that your company will never suffer from data leakage, it can dramatically increase your chances of being alerted promptly in case a data leak does occur. And it can help you steer clear of the penalties associated with the major customer privacy laws of recent years. 

Perhaps most importantly, having that kind of visibility regarding the dark web helps you zero in on the data leaks that should most concern you – those leaks that threat actors on the dark web deem worthy of their attention.

 

How does Cybersixgill empower you to step up your data leakage detection with threat intelligence from the deep and dark web? To see for yourself, request a demo today.