The amount of sensitive data we share with outsiders has skyrocketed thanks to the technological advances that undoubtedly make our lives easier. However, these same advancements come with a cost—increasing exposure of our personal data.
So, how is sensitive data exposed?
A sensitive data exposure occurs when an organization unknowingly exposes its customers' private information, leading to accidental destruction, alteration, or distribution of sensitive data.
Personally identifiable information (PII) such as financial, business, and personal data is not the only sensitive information that needs to be protected. Other forms of sensitive data that need rigorous safeguarding include:
It's important to remember that sensitive data exposure is different from a data breach, even though these terms are often used interchangeably.
A data breach occurs when a third party with malicious intent gains unauthorized access to sensitive information. This typically occurs when sensitive data is exposed; however, breaches still happen without a preexisting exposure.
On the other hand, it's possible for an organization to have sensitive data exposure without having their information breached. Just because an exposure exists doesn't mean it will be breached, but it significantly increases the chances.
The more you know about how data is prone to exposure, the better equipped your organization will be at mitigating potential attacks on this sensitive information. And since regulations, like the GDPR and CCAP, require organizations to protect sensitive data or face serious consequences, it's essential to know specifically where your company's sensitive files may run into trouble.
Digital data is found in several different states, and to better understand where attacks occur, we need to take a quick look at them first.
Many web applications typically store data at rest in servers, files, networks, and databases. While this data appears to be less vulnerable to attacks, the security of this information is entirely dependent on the protocols in place to protect it. Cyberattacks such as SQL injections or malicious payloads are used to circumvent security measures and gain unauthorized access to stored data.
As data is exchanged between servers, channels, and application programming interfaces (APIs), it's at risk of interception by third parties along the way. Cybercriminals take advantage of security flaws that exist when two applications or servers communicate without encryption. One common attack is known as a man-in-the-middle (MITM), where the attacker intercepts and monitors traffic and communication.
Unlike data in motion or rest, data in use is a reflection of the current activity happening within an organization's IT infrastructure. This means that it can be actively updated, processed, or erased at any time, rather than simply being stored for later access. Data in this state is equally vulnerable to attacks and even more likely to be initiated by insider attacks.
Now that you know where data can be attacked, let’s look at the way these attacks happen.
While web applications and web surfaces have their own vulnerabilities, however, Gartner predicts that APIs will be the main attack vector by 2022. To help prevent exposures, OWASP suggests you take these minimum steps against cryptographic failures (another name for sensitive data exposure).
While these steps offer a great starting point, taking advanced measures will ensure your data is well protected. We recommend taking some advanced security measures.
As the world continues to accelerate development cycles, organizations should never compromise security to meet the demands of digital transformation. With APIsec, you won't have to.
APIsec is the only platform that offers an automated, comprehensive way to test your company's API security. With ten times the coverage of manual pen testing, APIsec enables in-depth security assessments for your entire breadth of APIs. The automated platform tests against both known vulnerabilities and newly found threats to give you peace of mind with every vulnerability test.
Reach out to a security expert and see how APIsec protects APIs from sensitive data exposures, or run a free API pen test to see how your API may be vulnerable right now.