Data breaches have been a common cybersecurity problem for years now. Millions and even billions of users have been affected by them. The perfect example is the Yahoo data online breach that happened in 2013. More than a billion accounts were exposed in this cyberattack. One of the more recent security breaches occurred in June 2021, when LinkedIn revealed that 700 million profiles from this popular networking website are posted on the dark web.
Having sensitive data online can be extremely risky for all parties involved. With that said, it is crucial to note there are several types of sensitive information. So, figuring out what hackers want the most could be helpful to both organizations and individual users.
What is Sensitive Data?
Sensitive data is confidential information that is available only to people with special clearance. Most businesses keep their sensitive data stored online, while some go for physical copies. For instance, Coca-Cola’s delicious secret formula is stored in a vault in Atlanta, Georgia. Organizations and companies restrict access to certain types of data to their employees with special clearance to keep it as secure as possible.
Another way companies protect their sensitive data is by using a VPN (virtual private network), which encrypts all company data and keeps it safe from outsiders and hackers. There are various VPNs tailored to individual needs. Cybersecurity companies may offer a VPN for Mac, VPN for business, or a general VPN. Whatever the type, it will certainly add an additional layer of protection to sensitive company data.
However, we live in an era of frequent cyber threats, so sensitive data exposure can happen if companies or individuals fail to protect a database containing the information. Cybercriminals can create a data breach and access the data online. They might also use negligence and low-security measures to find a way into a server with sensitive data.
Types of Sensitive Data
Data Related to a Company
Various companies and organizations store data online that are very specific for their field of work. For instance, hospitals usually focus on protecting the medical data of their patients. On the other hand, companies that sell their goods online are concerned with keeping their clients’ personal and financial information safe.
Businesses also store trade secrets on their networks, and these are also very attractive to cybercriminals. This data can be related to upcoming products that are still in development, market research, etc. Trade secrets are the backbone of every successful company, and they need to be kept safe. Secret formulas, designs, code, methods, and plans are all considered to be trade secrets.
Customer information is vital to many companies. It includes their clients’ names, addresses, emails, credit card numbers, and so on. It is clear why this type of data is of interest to cybercriminals. Unfortunately, some customers are not even aware that companies have this information saved in their databases.
Employees’ information is sometimes more valuable to hackers than customers’ information. Besides getting their hands on names, addresses, social security numbers, and credit card data, cybercriminals might also steal login credentials. These can put a company at greater risk and lead to a massive cybersecurity breach.
What Do Hackers Do With Sensitive Data?
Behind every security breach is some form of motive. So, if you know why cybercriminals want to steal sensitive data, you will also learn how to secure it better. Here is what hackers usually do after they obtain unauthorized access to sensitive data:
Customers’ and employees’ information is quite valuable to hackers because they can do so many things with it. For instance, if they get a list of login credentials, cybercriminals will try to access every account connected to the emails. They will be using the same stolen password. It can put an individual’s financial information at risk. There is also the possibility of identity theft, especially if the data contains a social security number.
Companies can do a lot to protect both their customers, as well as employees. For instance, they shouldn’t be asking for too many personal details from the customers if they plan to store it somewhere. Businesses can also break sensitive information into chunks and keep data online separately.
Industry-specific data, as well as trade secrets, are often used in ransomware attacks. Hackers gain access to sensitive data, encrypt it, and then ask for a ransom. It is the most common and the most successful form of cyber attack. Large companies don’t shy away from paying a ransom to get their data back.
The number of ransomware attacks has increased drastically in the last couple of years. These are getting more and more sophisticated, so companies and organizations should do everything in their power to organize a good cybersecurity team. Hackers understand the importance of sensitive data exposure, and they will do anything to reach their goal.