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How to stop yourself from accidentally leaking sensitive data

If you work for a company or regularly collaborate with one as a freelancer, you need to know how to keep yourself and the company safe from private data leaks. This is crucial to prevent yourself from either suffering a data leak yourself or causing one accidentally while working for a business. 

Data leaks can be enormously damaging because if sensitive information (like bank details, private addresses, and health records) falls into the wrong hands, it can cost the business dearly. 

This is what you need to know to stop yourself from accidentally leaking sensitive data: 

Insider threats are a big issue within businesses

Data leaks are common, and one of the most frequent causes of them are insider threats. 

An insider threat is an individual who is close to a company – whether an employee, former employee, contractor, or freelancer – who has access to private data and leaks it, either deliberately or accidentally.

Insider threat leaks are often malicious, being perpetuated for financial or political gain, or just because the leaker is disgruntled about the company. 

However, this isn’t always the case and can be caused accidentally if the insider threat is hacked, loses a device with information on it, or simply sends the data to the wrong person.

To learn more about insider threats, click here.

Be careful of what emails and text messages you open

One of the most common forms of accidental data breach relates to phishing. A phishing scam is when a cyber hacker sends you an email, posing as a trusted institution or individual, such as your bank or a good friend. They then trick you into handing over personal details or simply clicking a link that gives you a virus. 

Once this virus is on your device, the hacker can quickly use your account to send the same malicious email to other people linked to the business you work for. The process continues until the whole organization is consumed by a cyber hack, which naturally has sinister results. 

Therefore, it is best not to click on any email which you think might be spam or that you don’t recognize the name of. On the other hand, if the email is from somebody, you know (like your bank), then double-check with that person or company before handing over any information.

Secure your devices

It sounds obvious, but securing all your devices with a high-quality antivirus program is a great way to safeguard yourself from accidentally leaking any data. This even goes for your phone, which can still be targeted by phishing scammers. 

You might even want to go as far as using a VPN to cover your tracks online and prevent anyone from knowing who you are. 

Be careful who you send documents to

An easy way to leak data accidentally is to forget who you are sending an email to. For example, if you are in an email chain, you could mistakenly send a private document to the whole chain, rather than the particular individual you intended to send it to. 

Always check who your recipients are and whether you are definitely sending the information to the correct person.

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