If your company has secrets (which it almost certainly does), then it’s not a stretch to say that it also has a leak problem. Many companies struggle with keeping their sensitive information properly secured, leaving them open to attack and data loss. Although you can’t completely eliminate your risk of data loss or theft, you can use data loss prevention strategies to reduce the likelihood that your environment will be infiltrated.
Data loss prevention, also known as DLP, is a security model that uses automated access monitoring and alerts, endpoint and data security protocols, and data sensitivity identification to prevent unauthorized access to your secrets. To avoid leaky secrets, search for potential weak points and appropriately secure your secrets before you find yourself the victim of a data breach.
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All Companies Have Secrets
All companies have sensitive information that should not be floating around on the Internet. The data could include proprietary recipes, formulas, or blueprints. There could be employee information stored on a database that includes social security numbers and home addresses. Your company could have a list of login credentials for employees that is improperly categorized and secured.
There is also customer information to worry about. While losing or leaking proprietary information and other sensitive data could be harmful to your business, if you have information about your customers, it’s imperative that you make every effort to protect it. Failure to do so can result in fines, lawsuits, reputation damage and loss of business.
Whether a customer provides shipping information or tracking cookies and analytics monitor website visitors, companies have access to a great deal of sensitive, valuable data. Any company with a website is likely to be using cookies, and many customers create accounts with passwords, names, addresses, and other information that shouldn’t be public knowledge. IP addresses, marketing information, and protected health information are all potentially stored in an organization’s database.
Companies Can’t Protect Their Secrets
Unfortunately, for all the data that companies collect from their customers, they often don’t do a particularly good job of keeping it secure, as indicated by the ever-increasing number of data breaches and lawsuits filed by affected consumers. Over 420 million people were affected by breaches in 2022, and 83% of companies surveyed by IBM stated that they had experienced a data breach.
A similar report by GitGuardian puts that number around 75%, but ultimately, the majority of organizations have experienced at least one breach, and it’s likely that many of them will experience another in the future. 53% of respondents found issues with their open source dependencies, vulnerabilities that result from using open source code to build applications without adequately vetting for potential exploits.
Over half of senior security professionals responded that they and their teams shared sensitive information in plaintext, which creates more opportunities for attackers. If an attacker were able to access that information, it would be relatively easy to exploit. Additionally, many security teams rely on manual processes for detecting improperly stored secrets, which is a time-consuming and inefficient method.
The other disadvantage of manual review is that attackers have begun using automated tools to detect vulnerabilities in open source code, which gives them an edge over companies’ security personnel. Attackers are able to exploit vulnerabilities and secrets faster than security teams can find the problem, nevermind trying to fix it. As a result, the security teams at many companies are both overworked and ineffective, leading to an increased risk of attacks and malicious access to or leakage of company secrets.
Keeping Secrets Secret
To solve the leaky secrets problem, companies should consider automated solutions that can help with data discovery and classification, environment governance, and DLP to prevent exfiltration of sensitive data. Good data security starts with knowing what data your company has in its environment and encrypting the most sensitive information while blocking malicious traffic. Ideally, your company will use data loss prevention (DLP) tactics as well.
DLP prevents your data from being accidentally or intentionally leaked outside of your security environment. Whether you need to improve your BYOD security policy, determine whether you’re compliant with local privacy regulations, or improve your data visibility, DLP tools can help. Monitoring user access to your data can also help, both by limiting the number of people permitted to access that data and by improving your odds of fast breach detection. Unusual activity is detected by automated monitoring tools, and you will receive an alert in real time.
Without proper security governance, your secrets will continue to leak. Even if you have no malicious insiders, a careless or poorly trained employee could easily enable unauthorized access to your security environment. To stop the leaks, it’s important to use DLP and automated monitoring that can keep eyes on your files, appropriately categorize sensitive data, and flag or block unusual and unauthorized activity. While this may seem like a lot of effort for a problem that hasn’t materialized, remember that anything you can do to prevent a data breach will save you much more money and time than any recovery strategy.