What is data exfiltration in cybersecurity?

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HIPAA compliance is an important part of a healthcare organization’s duty to protect patient data. By following the proper procedures for security, a covered entity can reduce the chances of suffering from data exfiltration.

What is data exfiltration?

Data exfiltration is a security breach involving the unauthorized movement of data. It occurs when a company’s data is transferred, copied, or retrieved from a device or network without prior approval.

How does data exfiltration happen?

Data exfiltration usually happens because a cybercriminal has gained access to a device or network system. However, authorized employees can also have involvement with data exfiltration, either maliciously or unintentionally.

Let’s review some common ways that data exfiltration happens.

  • Phishing emails: Phishing emails use social engineering to trick people into downloading malware or providing login credentials. These methods are commonly used by cybercriminals to launch a cyberattack. Some more sophisticated phishing scams will use display name spoofing (DNS) to mimic a trusted person, like a person’s manager, in order to obtain access to a network.
  • Human error: One of the biggest factors that cause data exfiltration are employees. Humans make mistakes, and your team isn’t immune. Employees could fall victim to a phishing email or not follow security procedures. Cybercriminals take advantage of these errors to gain access to a network and subsequently steal data.

Read more: Hacking and human error: Two enemies of HIPAA compliance

  • Downloads to insecure devices: Bring your own device (BYOD) is common in the healthcare industry, especially with the recent rise in remote work. However, covered entities need to ensure that employees are properly trained on securely using their devices. This includes updated software protection and using secure networks. Otherwise, employees may download sensitive data to insecure devices which are more vulnerable to data theft.
  • Unencrypted emails: When it comes to HIPAA compliance, covered entities need to provide a safeguard for emails containing protected health information (PHI). This usually happens with encryption, which is an important tool to secure emails. Unencrypted emails are easier for a cybercriminal to hack and obtain sensitive information.

Read more: HIPAA email encryption requirements: What you need to know

How to prevent data exfiltration

There are numerous ways a healthcare organization can keep its data secure and away from cybercriminals. One method is to have routine cybersecurity awareness training for your employees. Training can help them identify suspicious online behavior, report it, and ensure security protocols are understood and followed.

However, routine employee training doesn’t have a guarantee of preventing data exfiltration. It’s important for companies to have a robust email security system that blocks threats from entering an inbox and also automatically encrypts all outgoing emails.

Paubox Email Suite Premium is a HIPAA compliant solution that protects your employees’ inboxes. It contains a strong inbound security system that blocks malicious emails from even entering an employee’s inbox and lowers the risk of making a mistake. The HITRUST CSF certified software can also include data loss prevention (DLP), which can alert IT professionals if an attempt was made to send PHI outside of the network.

Proactively protecting your emails from cybercriminals and negligent employees can help prevent data exfiltration.

Try Paubox Email Suite Premium for FREE today.

About the author

Sara Nguyen

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