A Data Breach Today, a Ransomware Attack Tomorrow

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Pauline Losson

Organizations should not think twice about implementing advanced security features like multi-factor authentication (MFA). The key to finding a good balance between usability and user security when it comes to protecting data,” says Pauline Losson, Cyber Operations Director at CybelAngel.


ITSW Bureau: Data is today’s IT and the world’s backbone. An increased reliance leads to organizations inevitably amassing a significant volume of data. What steps do you suggest to organizations to keep it safe?

Pauline Losson: Data is the most valuable asset in the world right now. From small businesses to billion-dollar companies, data is at the heart of every operation. Companies have an inherent interest in protecting this data because it drives their business and contributes to their financial gain. There is also the ethical consideration that thousands of customers trust such organizations with their personal data.

In terms of keeping data safe, organizations should start by looking at the sources of leaks. Data leaks increased 63% last year. In our research, we found that almost 80% of these leaks are a result of exposed credentials, vulnerable assets, internal leaks, or fraudulent domains. On a year-to-year comparison, reported source code leaks increased by 66%, credential exposure by 9%, and cloud storage leaks by 150%. This was largely due to employees shifting to remote working and logging in from outside the normal, more secure perimeter.

We also found a 40% growth in vulnerable shadow assets, the majority of which were ‘major’ or ‘critical’ threats. These threats are increasing at an alarming rate every year. To prevent this, companies have to enforce better cybersecurity awareness and implement anonymous self-reporting tools for real-time security assessment.

Organizations should not think twice about implementing advanced security features like multi-factor authentication (MFA). The key to finding a good balance between usability and user security when it comes to protecting data.

These efforts should also be combined with Digital Risk Protection solutions (DRPS). MFA provides an additional layer of defense to your system, but integrating such solutions can take it up a notch by automatically resetting passwords when there is a potential threat. Combining employee training, awareness, and autonomous solutions is the most effective way of cutting off cyber-attacks before they even start – it’s all about a strong combination of protective factors.

There is also a critical need for better data management practices internally. Tech companies and their employees have a high presence in public open-source platforms like GitHub. Employees often leave their credentials or important data inside source code, which is an open invitation for hackers to steal sensitive data. Last year, there was a 117% increase in data leaks through GitHub.

There should be different database access levels for employees. Not every employee should be able to post source codes on public repositories. Organizations should also make a habit of doing internet audits to ensure that their employees are constantly following good data protection and cybersecurity standards. Establishing these habitual changes can go a long way in keeping data safe.

ITSW Bureau: How can organizations get alerts about their data leaks and digital threats? How should they plan an effective remediation plan in such a scenario?

Pauline Losson: Whenever a data leak incident occurs, companies need to know about it as soon as possible. To achieve this, you need visibility of the internet and the dark web to spot potential incidents. A good approach is to use automated solutions or AI software that is always monitoring for potential threats.

Most cyber-attacks do not happen spontaneously. Hackers use a certain targeting mechanism and take advantage of weak spots to exploit certain companies or industries. So, businesses need analysts or powerful AI to alert exposed data to prevent this from becoming a security threat and entry point for theft, fraud, or ransomware attack.

ITSW Bureau: What steps can organizations take to monitor, detect, and resolve data leaks across connected devices? How do CybelAngel’s Data Breach Prevention platforms help organizations do the same?

Pauline Losson: It comes back to having a solid threat assessment and monitoring framework. You will either achieve this by outsourcing threat detection capabilities like skilled analysts or automated AI solutions.

CybelAngel combines both manual and automated solutions to give the best of both worlds. Our data breach prevention solutions combine AI-driven scanning technology and critical human analysis. This industry-leading powerful combination allows us to monitor the entire digital space, including the dark web, connected storage devices, databases, and cloud ecosystems, to detect leaked data that can pose potential digital threats to businesses.

There are three aspects of our Data Breach Prevention solution. Firstly, we have 24/7 scanning technology that harvests data from all over the internet, filters them according to a business’s parameters, and identifies potential data leaks. Secondly, we have professional Cyber Analysts, who manually assess qualified risks and create incident reports. Lastly, we have Customer Success Managers who monitor the lifecycle of each project and continuously lookout for ways to improve our process.

ITSW Bureau: What trends do you expect to witness in the data privacy and prevention industry?

Pauline Losson: The market size for data protection-as-a-service is expected to grow by $19 billion in the next five years. I expect to see more awareness-driven business models in this space going forward. Companies are already shifting to a Data-protection-as-a-Service model.

We are also likely to see more advanced Artificial Intelligence-driven solutions being introduced in this industry. I don’t think we are far from the time when data privacy and prevention will be fully automated. Human analysts are still a critical and integral part of the data protection industry, but in the future, these analysts will move to management roles, while monitoring and incident response operations will become fully automated.

I also expect more awareness in the future from non-technical industries. Our research found that the Banking and Financial sector experienced little to no growth in data leaks in the past year. This is because that industry is highly equipped with advanced cybersecurity practices and data management awareness.

In the future, industries like healthcare, retail, and telecommunications will also need to follow the same path, because data is too valuable to lose, regardless of which industry you belong to.

Pauline leads the Global Analyst Team of CybelAngel as Director of Cyber Operations. She joined CybelAngel 4 years ago and originally graduated from a Crisis Management & Intelligence Master/Graduate Program in Sciences Po Lille, France. After managing the US customers of CybelAngel, she is now in charge of the growth and strategy of the Analysts at CybelAngel, including investigation programs.