Data Leakage: How Can We Prevent It?

Data Leakage: How Can We Prevent It?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Advocate
 Last update: November 25, 2023

Data leakage refers to the unauthorized transmission of data from within an organization to an external destination or recipient. It can occur through various ways such as emails, cloud storage, physical data transportation, or even digital data transmissions. These unintentional or deliberate acts can lead to loss or exposure of sensitive data, risking the privacy and security of any affected parties.

Data Leakage Examples

1. Email Mishap

An all too common example of data leakage occurs when an employee accidentally sends sensitive information to unintended recipients via email. This type of incident can happen very quickly and easily, especially in a hectic work environment.

For instance, an employee might unintentionally attach a file containing customers’ credit card details to an email and then send it to someone outside the organization. This data, now in the wrong hands, can be misused for fraudulent activities that can severely damage the company’s reputation and customer trust.

Preventing such incidents involves both technical measures, like secure email gateways, and non-technical ones such as staff training on data handling and confidentiality.

2. Cloud Storage Misconfiguration

In this digital age, organizations often rely on cloud storage platforms for easy access and sharing of data. However, data leakage can occur if an employee unintentionally uploads confidential documents to a public cloud storage area rather than a secure, private one.

Stay One Step Ahead of Cyber Threats

Want to Be the Smartest Guy in the Room? Get the Latest Cybersecurity News and Insights.
We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe anytime.

For example, suppose a staff member uploads a company’s financial reports to a cloud storage platform that is not adequately configured for privacy. This data, if discovered by unauthorized individuals, could be used for various illicit activities such as insider trading, or it could give competitors an unwelcome insight into the company’s operations.

To avoid such situations, companies need to implement strict cloud governance policies and conduct regular audits. Additionally, using enterprise-grade cloud storage solutions with advanced security features can add another layer of protection.

3. Physical Device Loss

Data leakage isn’t always a purely digital phenomenon – it can happen through physical devices too. A prime example is when an employee loses a USB stick that contains malware-infected files or sensitive data.

Imagine a scenario where a worker saves sensitive company data on a USB stick for work-at-home convenience. If the worker accidentally leaves the device in a public place and it gets picked by an unauthorized person, all the data stored on that USB stick could easily fall into the wrong hands. Worse still, if the device is infected with malware, it could provide a backdoor to the company’s networks.

For this reason, it’s crucial to establish robust policies around the use of removable media. Encouraging employees to use secure alternatives like virtual private networks (VPNs) for remote access can significantly reduce the risk of such data leaks.


Data leakage poses a significant threat to an organization’s security and credibility. By understanding different scenarios in which data leakage can occur, organizations can implement effective strategies to prevent such incidents and protect their sensitive information.

Key Takeaways

  • Data leakage refers to the unauthorized transmission of data from an organization to an external destination or recipient.
  • Data leakage can occur through different channels like emails, cloud storage, and physical data transportation.
  • Common scenarios of data leakages include sending sensitive information via email to someone outside the organization, uploading confidential documents to a public cloud storage, and losing a USB stick containing sensitive data.
  • The impact of data leakage can be severe, involving financial losses, loss of customer trust, and damage to the company’s reputation.
  • Preventing data leaks requires both technical measures such as secure platforms and tools, and non-technical ones like staff training and strict data handling policies.

Related Questions

1. What are some preventive measures against data leakage?

Preventive measures include implementing data encryption, using secure platforms and tools, providing thorough staff training on data handling policies and practices, conducting regular audits, and controlling access to sensitive data.

2. What role does employee training play in data leakage prevention?

Employee training plays a vital role in data leakage prevention. By educating staff about the risks and the correct ways to handle sensitive information, companies can significantly reduce the chances of human errors causing data leaks.

3. How serious can the effects of a data leak be on a company?

The effects of a data leak can be extremely damaging. A company could suffer financial losses, tarnishing of its reputation, loss of customer trust, litigation, and potentially severe penalties from regulatory bodies.

4. How can a company detect data leakage?

A company can detect data leakage through various methods, such as proactively monitoring data access and transfer, deploying intrusion detection systems, performing regular system audits, and utilizing specialized data leakage prevention software.

5. Is data encryption helpful in preventing data leaks?

Yes, data encryption is highly useful in preventing leaks. Even if data gets into the wrong hands, it remains unintelligible and useless to unauthorized users without the correct decryption key.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional