What is Data Exfiltration And How to Prevent It?
It is referred to as data exportation, data extortion, or data theft from a computer or another device. Basically, hackers target different mediums, like computers, laptops, and mobile phones, to gather private or business information.
This can pose serious problems for organizations. Failing to control data exfiltration or taking preventive measures can cause severe data loss.
Therefore, the intent of executing this attack is not positive; rather, it’s malicious, which directly affects the brand’s reputation. Further, it causes financial damage. The intention of these attacks is to gain access to a network or machine to locate and copy the specific desirable data they need.
A single person may manually carry out the task, but numerous malicious programs via networks could automatically carry it out. In cyber security, it becomes important to protect against these types of cyberattacks. But, before moving towards prevention, it is better to learn about how hackers target machines.
How do hackers Gain Access to Target Machines?
After knowing what data exfiltration is, let’s move on to another question that pops up: How do hackers gain access to the target machines? Often, data extraction by hackers is made possible by computers that use vendor sets. And they are widely used by hackers or simple-to-crack passwords.
In fact, these are the easy-to-access doors for hackers to attack. Hackers may gain access to target machines through remote applications. They steal corporate data and potentially user credentials, which results in cybercrime injecting malware onto a target device.
If they have physical access to the target machine, they can install removable media devices to access the data on the machine.
Advanced persistence threats (APT) are a form of cyberattack in which data exfiltration is the primary goal of the hacker. APTs always consistently and aggressively affect companies and organizations with the goal of accessing their secured data.
However, they always go undetected. They seek out the most valuable and targeted restricted data information, like trade secrets, intellectual properties, employee information, sensitive client data, target data, or financial information.
If the cybercriminals successfully carry out the data exfiltration, they may use the daily data to damage the company’s reputation. So, before proceeding toward preventive measures against data exfiltration, it is necessary to know about the multiple attack approaches.
Types of Data Exfiltration
Data exfiltration occurs in various ways for hackers and through multiple attack methods. The techniques cybercriminals use to exfiltrate informative data are becoming increasingly complicated. Such gateways are:
- Connecting to external servers that receive the stolen data
- Using domain name system (DNS) queries that hide the data in plain sight
- Using hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) or hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) requests that mimic legitimate web traffic
- Using direct internet protocol (IP) address connections that bypass firewalls or proxies
- Executing remote code that transfers the data to another location
Common Data Exfiltration Techniques
Let us discuss some common techniques of data exfiltration.,
- Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks- Social engineering attacks are common network attacks used to trick the victim into getting access by downloading malware and giving up their account credentials.Phishing attacks are generally the practice of sending fraudulent communication that appears to come from a reputed source like emails, etc. This either injects malware onto the system or provides a link to a fake website. That website looks like the real one but is designed to steal login credentials.
In order to acquire the data of certain users, such as well-known figures like politicians and celebrities, senior company executives, etc., some hackers also undertake targeted attempts.
- Cloud Apps and Databases- Recent CA technologies describe a database as “the number-one most sensitive IT assist.” The reason behind this is the data contained in them is the most sensitive data. It is commonly targeted by both inside attackers as well as external attackers.Authorized users may open the door for malicious actors to utilize and install harmful programs. They also modify virtual machines or send evil requests to cloud services when they access cloud services in an unsafe manner.
- Download to Insecure Devices: Data exfiltration is a common accidental insider threat where the malicious actor accesses sensitive corporate information on their trusted device. It transfers to an insecure device such as a camera, external drive, or smartphone. These are not protected by corporate security solutions or policies. This puts the insecure or unmonitored device at high risk.
- Upload External Devices: Removable media are another common insider threat. The malicious action gained access to the sensitive information of the organization on their trusted devices and later transferred the data to the insecure device to steal the data.
- Data Misuse: Misusing data is another essential type of data exfiltration. This can happen intentionally or unintentionally by any person in the organization. As an illustration, an employee used unsigned software because it was quick and simple to use when working with outside contractors. So, this leads to the inadvertent exfiltration of informative data.Employees can exfiltrate company data in different ways. These are personal email accounts, printers, file-sharing sites, cloud storage, keyboard shortcuts, and more. Also, it can be challenging for organizations to distinguish legitimate user activity from malicious activity. Therefore, after learning about various types of data exfiltration, let us now focus on
preventive measures against data exfiltration.
Preventive Measures of Data Exfiltration
To avoid sending sensitive information to unidentified sites in regions with a high rate of cyberattacks, organizations should prevent the unauthorized transmission of data to third-party servers.
Prevention of data exfiltration is possible with security solutions that ensure data loss and leakage prevention. For example, firewalls can block unauthorized access to resources and systems storing sensitive information. Simultaneously, on the other hand, a security information and event management system (SIEM) can secure data in motion and in use. And, at rest, secure endpoints and identify suspicious data transfers.
Therefore, organizations must take preventive measures to secure informative data, systems, and users from cybersecurity attacks without impacting performance and productivity.
Let us discuss some measures combined with the tools and protocols that can help in the prevention of data exfiltration
- Monitor user activity: the first major preventive measure is the consistent vigilance of user activity. The administration should be particular about who accesses what files, identify unusual behavior, etc.
- Use secure passwords: Organizations should implement policies to restrict informative data with strong passwords.
- Regularly update software & systems: regularly update all the software and systems to ensure they are protected against the latest cyber threats.
- Implement multifactor authentication: implementing multifactor authentication means allowing authorized users to access the system. This measure cannot allow unauthorized access to sensitive data.
- Cyber attack education: education on cyber security must be available to every employee so they do not open malicious attachments or click on links attached to emails.
- Perform frequent data backups: Data backups guarantee that a company can, if necessary, restore lost or stolen data.
In the blog, we gained a deep knowledge of what is data exfiltration. Whether the mistake of an employee or a deliberate attack, data exfiltration might have a devastating impact on the severe informative details of the organization or any individual. For certain users, it is beneficial to opt for best practices. Some of them are software for malware detection and security.
Hence, this is an expert’s recommendation to opt for a cyber security consulting service that allows 24*7 support and gives you the core security of your organization to get rid of these kinds of cyber attacks. This will manage cybersecurity incidents at all levels and must provide you with distinct security solutions.