What is Data Exfiltration and How to Prevent
Defining Data Exfiltration
Also referred to as data theft or exportation, data exfiltration is when an unauthorized transfer of data occurs from one device to another. This can be done manually by anyone with physical access to the computer or device, or it can be done through malicious programs over a network such as the internet.
In other words, data exfiltration is a form of security breach where data is transferred or copied without authorization — basically, when data is stolen. While this can be done through a variety of techniques, it is most commonly done by hackers through the internet. Attacks are normally targeted so they can locate and steal specific data that they want.
Data exfiltration can be difficult to detect since it involves moving data within the company’s network, as well as outside of it. Once the data is in the hands of hackers, the damage can be catastrophic.
How Data Exfiltration Is Done
One of the most common ways hackers perform data exfiltration is through easy-to-crack passwords. Statistically, systems with the least sophisticated passwords get hacked the most. Hackers can then gain access to target machines through remote access applications or by inserting a removable media device if they can get physical access.
There is another form of data exfiltration called Advanced Persistent Threat, or APT. This is an aggressive targeting of specific organizations to steal their sensitive data. The main goal of this threat is to get access to their target’s network and remain undetected as they seek out the data they are after, such as customer data, intellectual property, and financial information, to name a few.
This form of data exfiltration relies heavily on social engineering techniques such as phishing emails to try and trick people within the organization to install a malicious program that they will then use to access the network. Once inside, they try to identify the data they are after and proceed to copy or transfer them.
The attackers can now use the data they’ve collected for financial gain, sabotage, or damaging the organization’s reputation.
Preventing Data Exfiltration
Now for the million-dollar question of how to prevent data exfiltration. Since most of these techniques rely on social engineering to install malicious software, organizations need to train their employees in detecting potential threats in emails so they can be reported instead of opened. At the same time, organizations need to create defensive layers designed to detect potential threats and programs so they can properly respond to them and stop data exfiltration from happening.
One of the most important things for data exfiltration prevention is protecting endpoints. These endpoints provide easy access for hackers, so it is vital to protect them.
Overall, data exfiltration may seem easy to guard against, but techniques and technologies keep evolving, which leads to more advanced attacks. Make sure to stay on top of these evolutions and implement strong security policies to prevent data from being stolen from the organization.
Julia Sowells923 Posts
Julia Sowells has been a technology and security professional. For a decade of experience in technology, she has worked on dozens of large-scale enterprise security projects, and even writing technical articles and has worked as a technical editor for Rural Press Magazine. She now lives and works in New York, where she maintains her own consulting firm with her role as security consultant while continuing to write for Hacker Combat in her limited spare time.