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Breaches and Data Leaks

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Topic Risk

Security Breaches

Security breaches are incidents in which unauthorized access to a program, device, system, or network is gained. System breaches pave the way for threat actors to lay the groundwork for a cyber attack by installing malware, or result in a data breach or leak.

Data Breaches

Data breaches involve the loss, destruction, or theft of an organization's confidential, sensitive, or proprietary information. From passwords to banking details, corporate data, and intellectual property, information always has a price with the right buyer. It is no surprise that organizations make attractive targets for financially-motivated cybercriminals. After seizing this information, these adversaries may sell it on the dark web to the highest bidder or use the information themselves to commit fraud or extort victims.

Data Leaks

While data leaks are typically thought of as accidental, usually as the result of human error, “double extortion” is a popular tactic used by ransomware and extortion groups. In an attack, these groups will encrypt key data and also threaten to publicly leak it on data leak blog sites if a ransom is not paid or leak the information there with the promise to delete it only if a ransom is paid. This significantly increases the pressure on a victim to pay and complicates the management of an extortion attack considerably.

With Breaches and Data Leaks, No One is Safe

The growing digitization of business operations and advancing tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by threat actors to commit these incidents means that no organization is safe from a potential breach or data leak. Unfortunately, the consequences of a data breach or leak can be devastating.

A data breach can result in significant legal fees, recovery costs, compliance penalties, and closer scrutiny by regulators. Additionally, the loss and modification of data can disrupt business operations, damage reputation with customers and ultimately harm sales. IBM reported that in 2022, the average cost of a data breach was $4.35m USD. Cybersecurity teams must be poised, ready to prevent future data breaches and swiftly mitigate their effects when they happen.

For some sectors, the consequences of data breaches and leaks are even more severe than financial losses. Healthcare providers, guardians of critical national infrastructure, and security may find that public safety is threatened if they are unable to operate breached systems or their information is stolen or leaked.

System/Data Breaches and Data Leaks Can Occur in Many Ways

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Compromised Credentials

The most common cause of a data breach is the use of compromised credentials to gain access to an organization’s network. These credentials may have been bought on the cyber underground from a previous data breach or pried from an employee in a social engineering attack.

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Unsecured Assets

Delaying the latest patch update will provide threat actors with vulnerabilities to leverage for entry to your network. Under the shared responsibility model in the cloud, customers are always responsible for their data and for properly configuring access controls to prevent unauthorized users from accessing confidential data. Misconfigurations can permit unauthorized access to any information stored here.

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Social Engineering Attacks

A social engineering attack is a tactic in which cybercriminals exploit psychology to trick individuals into sharing information. Phishing attacks are an example of such an attack. By impersonating a legitimate source or using an emotional appeal, a threat actor can trick an unwitting member of staff into revealing their login details or downloading malware simply by asking through an email or SMS. The threat may already be waiting in your inbox.

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An employee can inadvertently download malware, such as infostealers, onto their operating system. This malware harvests vast amounts of user information and transmits it to a command and control server. This data could be leaked, sold on the cyber underground, or used by the actor for their own malicious ends. If the information contains authentication data, such as valid credentials, this could be used to trigger another security breach.

How Can You Mitigate the Risk of Breaches and Data Leaks?

Acknowledging threat actors exist both within and outside of a network helps protect an organization. This model of security does not assume correct credentials are enough proof for a user to access data. Each access request requires multiple components to be confirmed, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and device health and location, before permission is granted. This means even if a threat actor is moving laterally through a third party to target a connected entity, they can remain secure.

Threat actors are constantly searching for vulnerabilities to exploit. Running on outdated patches allows actors to leverage vulnerabilities in systems, such as web applications, server software, or content management systems (CMS). Ensuring your patching is up to date minimizes the risk of a breach and data leak.

Both data breaches and data leaks can occur as a result of human error. Train employees to recognize social engineering attacks, such as phishing scams, so it is far harder for threat actors to steal confidential data through this attack vector. Employees should also be educated on the importance of data security, the types of data they handle, and best practices for handling and protecting this information.

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How Can Intel 471 Protect Against Breaches and Data Leaks?

We are your window into the cyber underground. Our unparalleled cyber threat intelligence (CTI) offers unique insights into attackers’ intent and motivation to change the odds of an attack. Our intelligence can help you detect and prevent breaches as quickly as possible to eliminate or minimize impact. Our capabilities include:

The longer you take to identify and contain a data breach, the greater the impact to your company. This is why Intel 471 continuously monitors sources in the cyber underground; including marketplaces, instant messaging platforms, and data leak blogs. We rapidly alert you to the potential breach of both you or your third parties so you can act with confidence and speed. By including file listings for ransomware leak blogs for download, we also enable you to rapidly understand the extent of a data leak and adjust your strategy accordingly. Learn more on our blog. 

Check if you’ve left the door open for threat actors by mapping your ever-growing attack surface. Intel 471’s Attack Surface Protection (ASP) will continuously map your assets so you can identify and address potential entry points for attackers to breach your systems and take malicious action. Most importantly, we also alert you to if these weak points are being targeted by threat actors in the cyber underground.

Our researchers are native speakers of the languages and the underground ecosystems inhabited by threat actors. This gives us a unique insight into how they operate. Intel 471 provides early warning of when threat actors may be targeting your organizations and up-to-the-minute intelligence about the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) they use. This way, you can structure a dynamic cyber security defense rather than a reactive response.

We provide high-fidelity technical intelligence, such as IOCs, derived from tracking malware and malicious infrastructures at the command and control (C2) level. Leverage this information to identify intrusion attempts and malware infections more efficiently and enhance your ability to mitigate the damage of a potential data breach. By detecting threats more readily, you can bolster your overall cybersecurity posture.

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