Understanding Data Exposure

data exposure

Data breaches pop up constantly in the news. Companies are always defending against hackers, looking for a way to find sensitive information. Typically, getting this data is the end goal for hackers. This data can be used to gain further access to other resources or sold to criminals for use in other malicious activities. Depending on what information is found during a data breach, hackers can use stolen data to get extremely dangerous access and commit very dangerous crimes.

Finding The Data

Hackers will have to seek out and compromise data before anything can be done with it. These attacks are typically going to be opportunistic against identified weak servers that are exposed to the internet. This will usually maximize the profit for the hackers since it massively cuts down on the time needed to attack and exploit an organization, as these weaknesses can usually provide pretty effortless access. This can be thought of as the hackers going for the lowest-hanging fruit.

There are two main ways that bad guys get information: Data leaks and data breaches. Data leaks are usually passive data exposure—such as a misconfigured web server that hosts sensitive files. In cases like this, all the attackers have to do is locate it and view it. It may also have more complexity, such as a vulnerability that returns excessive data if a user’s phone number is known. Attackers could then spray a massive list of phone numbers against the application and store any returned data.

Data breaches typically imply a level of advanced access. This could be from a complex and long attack against an organization or something as simple as a hacker getting lucky attacking a VPN login panel. In such cases, criminals will look for a database or other storage systems and begin exfiltrating the data. This information will typically be far more sensitive than leaked information and can be extremely damaging to the breached organization.

Using The Information

Once hackers can exfiltrate and organize the stolen information, the next step is utilizing the data. Commonly, it will be separate groups stealing and using the information. The hackers will take the sorted information and post it for sale in dark web markets. Other hackers will then buy the information and use it for malicious purposes. Hackers often gamble to an extent when they buy data, as they will not know exactly what information they buy. Typically, they will see a sample of the data to understand how it is formatted.

Stolen data can be used for a wide range of purposes. The most common types of information will be personally identifiable information, such as names, email addresses, phone numbers, and whatever else the organization stores. It can also be common to find application credentials stored in sensitive databases. These can be exceptionally valuable, as credentials can be sprayed against other services to test for password reuse.

Stolen personal information can be used to mount more targeted attacks or widespread phishing campaigns. Phishing attacks where the attackers know sensitive information about the target can be more convincing and have higher success rates than blind attacks. Personal information being compromised by hackers can also be a massive breach of privacy for the victims.

Many other types of sensitive information can be stored in databases, such as credit card information, social security numbers, and medical records. Federal regulations require that organizations storing this type of information take the highest levels of care. Organizations storing this data may be subject to penalties when guidelines are not followed, and a breach occurs.

Preventing Data Exposure

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to these attacks. Every organization’s attack surface will be unique so that the solutions will be unique. Initial data access can happen in many different ways, and further data access can happen even more. A skilled security professional can carefully analyze a network and identify security vulnerabilities. They can also help work with the defensive team and find the proper solution for the client.

Meet Compliance With Blue Goat Cyber

Blue Goat can help your team identify potential points of data access and work to patch them. If your organization processes sensitive data, we can help you meet all the regulatory requirements needed to stay compliant in your industry. Contact us to schedule a discovery session and identify your security goals.

Blog Search

Social Media