Data Leaks in Enterprise Applications

Cygnis Media Editor
Data Leaks in Enterprise Apps

Any software that is optimized to run crucial business processes needs to be secure. Motives for the attacks that lead to data leaks are diverse. For example, hackers try to take advantages of vulnerabilities in enterprise applications to gain access to sensitive information that they could sell to competitors, such as a company’s earnings and other confidential data.

Organizations can’t stop attackers from attempting to gain access to sensitive data but they can always take measurable steps to mitigate the risk involved.

Session Mishandling

Data leaks often happen when hackers steal app sessions lengths to assume the identity of exploited users within an app for some sort of gain. To keep sessions secure, developers initiate security measures. For example, some institutions secure app sessions by putting a timer on them (like banking applications that timeout after 10 minutes to prevent unauthorized access to personal funds). However, the problem becomes bigger in the case of mobile enterprise applications where developers don’t have the luxury of ensuring app security in such a simple way.

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The reason is pretty simple. Corporate users prefer non-expiring sessions since typing the password every time they want to use an app during a typical workday creates hitches in workflow. Sessions are kept lengthier to eliminate the need for repeated logins. However, managing them poorly keeps the application open to security threats such as enabling malicious users to gain executive level access and steal data for future marketing campaigns.

To prevent virtual breaches, developers can use best practice countermeasures that prevent hackers from gaining access to user credentials. Some of these are:

  • Follow development guidelines of the platforms the application is based on.
  • Implement token based authentication (where the user provides a token for each access request), thereby limiting prolonged access in case of a manual breach.

Weak End to End Security

Protecting data as it travels from users to servers from malicious external attacks is a priority for app owners. However, security vulnerabilities as data travels to servers to be processed are very real. For example, unencrypted data can be intercepted, deleted or modified either from vulnerabilities at the user end or from the server side.

For enterprises that rely on applications to send and receive sensitive material, both user and server side controls must be secure. Weak end to end controls can reveal highly sensitive information to third parties, like the personal information of clients, partners and employees.

If enterprises hope to avoid such scenarios, they must ensure that data transmission between the client and server is secure. One way is to identify sensitive data and encrypt it with technologies such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES256) and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to establish a secure link between a server and a browser.

Human Error

Employees don’t have to be malicious to put their organization at risk. Studies show that businesses attribute most data leaks to human error. Enterprise applications are designed to automate and streamline complex business tasks. However, everything from fatigue to mistaken identities may cause an employee to err while processing tasks. For example:

A customer might accidentally be sent an email meant for a vendor who happens to share the same name
A system administrator might forget to log off from the application and share his device with a coworker who isn’t supposed to have the same level of access to sensitive data.

The consequences can be dire –

  • Sending emails to wrong recipients can expose corporate vulnerabilities that customers shouldn’t be aware of. For instance, the email sent to the vendor may prompt order delays due to huge layoffs.
  • Unauthorized access may expose sensitive data like the personal information of customers or employees. In addition to loss of professional integrity, the organization in which the leak happened may be sued or abandoned by the people whose data it swore to protect and face millions in losses.

Employees are expected to perform complex tasks and even the best employees can make mistakes in doing so. Fortunately, developers do have solutions for them. For example, in light of the issues mentioned above –

  • A development best practice to prevent cases of mistaken identities within networks is RBAC (Role Based Access Control) which limits access to an enterprise’s network resources based on the role of individual users.
  • To prevent accidental access, enterprises may discourage employees from sharing devices by enforcing BYOD policies and train employees regarding device management.

Wrapping Up

Data leaks are a stark reality and more so for enterprises whose integrity and stability depends on data security. They can cause ripple effects across an entire organization regardless of where they happen. By keeping the consequences and causes in perspective, enterprises can initiate appropriate security measures to counter data breaches before they happen.

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