Mart 4, 2024

The Top Data Security Threats – and How to Stop Them

Tim Herr

In a perfect world, the only threat to data security is a corrupted thumb drive.


Reality is a little different. In fact, it can be difficult to keep track of all the threats to data security. Especially in a world increasingly reliant on remote work and cloud-based applications, where data goes everywhere and work can happen anywhere.

Secure Data Everywhere. Empower Work Anywhere.

Where do you focus your attention to cover the most ground? We’ve identified a short list of the most common data security threats to use as the foundation for an effective data security strategy:

  • Malware
  • Social engineering
  • Insider threats
  • Shadow IT
  • Supply chain attacks
  • Third-party vulnerabilities
  • Cloud security vulnerabilities


Main threats to data security

It’s important to defend against every threat. However, there are four cornerstones which can be used to guide a comprehensive strategy.

We’ve all seen the headlines; malware can bring operations to a grinding halt and compromise sensitive data. One especially disruptive type is ransomware, which is designed to hold sensitive information for ransom until the victim makes a payment to the attacker.

Malware is an executable commonly delivered via emails or compromised websites. Use a Secure Web Gateway to monitor traffic from the web and prevent users from accessing unknown or risky content. Consider pairing SWG with Remote Browser Isolation so employees can open potentially risky websites in a virtualized container. This is ideal for insurance and financial industries, which commonly visit unknown websites for background checks or lending purposes.

Social Engineering
Social engineering uses psychology instead of technical exploits, as attackers manipulate individuals within an organization to access restricted data. Phishing is the most widespread form of social engineering, in which seemingly legitimate communications are used to trick employees into sharing credentials or installing malware.

RBI covers suspicious websites, but DLP for Email can help prevent employees from sharing sensitive data in targeted phishing campaigns.

Insider threats
Employees, contractors, consultants and partners can become insider threats when they intentionally take intellectual property or unintentionally share sensitive information. Guarding against insider threats without overly surveilling employees can be a major challenge for organizations without automated threat detection and policy enforcement.

Enhancing your DLP with Risk-Adaptive Protection lets you utilize automated behavioral analysis capabilities to identify and mitigate risky behavior in real time.

Shadow IT
When employees use unsanctioned applications to perform tasks without the knowledge of management, this is known as shadow IT.

It’s tough to protect data if you don’t know where it’s in use. With a Cloud Access Security Broker, you can gain visibility into what cloud applications employees are using and extend DLP policy coverage to them.


Prominent Data Security Threats and Vulnerabilities

Once an organization has defenses in place for the main data security threats listed above, it can look ahead to other threat types.

Supply chain attacks
Attackers can compromise software or hardware before it is delivered to the organization by a trusted vendor or while it is in use. They may exploit vulnerabilities in software updates, hardware components and so on to gain access to restricted data. Make sure you are thoroughly vetting the security of your vendors before sharing sensitive information with them.

Third-party vulnerabilities
A vulnerability in someone else’s operations may generate risk to your organization if they use your data or have systems that interface with yours. Flaws in their libraries or APIs can allow attackers to access your sensitive data. Similar to supply chain attacks, stay aware of your vendors’ and partners’ security strategies – especially concerning their response to emerging vulnerabilities.

Cloud security vulnerabilities
Cybercriminals can find vulnerabilities where an organization’s network interfaces with cloud-based applications, exploiting them to gain access to sensitive data without having to overcome internal network security. Cloud misconfigurations and insecure APIs are two factors that can produce cloud security vulnerabilities, which could lead to a data leak.


Data Security Everywhere to Empower Safe Work Anywhere

Prevent data breaches and simplify compliance by utilizing an approach Forcepoint calls Data Security Everywhere. This is accomplished by focusing on five key areas:

  • Securing cloud, endpoint and BYOD devices
  • AI-powered data discovery and classification
  • Extending DLP to email
  • Risk-Adaptive Protection for real-time automation
  • Protecting users and data on the web


By employing the right solutions to cover these five areas, you can ensure that your sensitive data is comprehensively protected at every stage of its lifecycle. And the good news is that it doesn’t require expanding your security operations and increasing operating costs; Data Security Everywhere offers simple, unified policy management that makes it easy to deploy policies across all channels with a few clicks.

Interested in taking the next step to strengthen your data security posture? Download the Practical Guide to Data Security Everywhere for a detailed explainer on the process of building a sound and simple data security strategy piece by piece.

Tim Herr

Tim serves as Brand Marketing Copywriter, executing the company's content strategy across a variety of formats and helping to communicate the benefits of Forcepoint solutions in clear, accessible language.

Read more articles by Tim Herr

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