Internal violators are the most serious threat to data privacy in Southeast Asia

Oct 12, 2017

Data leakages in ASEAN countries are mainly caused by the negligence of top-level executives and employees with access to sensitive and confidential data, according to the latest research findings by cybersecurity and data leak prevention expert InfoWatch Group.

Up to 56% of incidents of compromised data were caused by executives, employees, IT administrators and other authorized personnel. The other 44% of leakages were the result of external attacks and former employees. (Figure 1)

“It is a disturbing sign to see that a relatively high percentage of leaks stem from top managers and system administrators who fall into the category of ‘privileged users’,” said Vladimir Shutemov, Chief International Business Development Officer of InfoWatch Group.

Shutemov, who also heads InfoWatch SEA operations based in Kuala Lumpur, added, “Leaks due to blunders, intentional violation of rules or malicious activities of privileged users are the most destructive as they have more access to sensitive data compared to rank-and-file employees.”

He was citing the latest findings of InfoWatch research unit, InfoWatch Analytics Center, on data leaks reported by governments and commercial and non-commercial organisations in Southeast Asia, South Korea, India and Bangladesh. The research was based on information sources in the media and other public domains between July 2016 and July 2017.

Shutemov said users with advanced permissions, either unwittingly or deliberately, cause the leakage, because they were “unhappy” with any attempt by their organisations to control their PCs, laptops and mobile phones.

By industry category, the research also pointed out that up to 43% of leakages in Southeast Asia stemmed from public institutions including government, military and law enforcement agencies, compared to only 13% worldwide. (Figure 2)

In terms of types of data leaked, in Southeast Asia, South Korea, India and Bangladesh, the report cited that personal data comprised almost 77%, followed by payment details at 15%, trade secrets or know-how at 5%, and state secrets, close to 3%. By comparison, globally, 62% of data leaked was personal data, while up to 31% of data stolen were payment details. (Figure 3)

“In line with global trends, Southeast Asia and other Asian countries are striving to improve cybersecurity. Their governments have toughened up personal data laws, while enterprises more and more often use information security tools against external and internal intruders. But more needs to be done as technology advances and the intruders become more sophisticated,” said Shutemov.

By channels, browsers and cloud storages turned out to be the most common means data is leaked, almost 74% of all cases, while equipment loss, such as stolen laptops, and the popular use of instant messenger apps, together caused 14% of leaks. Globally, browsers and cloud storages were used in 61% of data leaks, followed by email (23%), and paper documents (8%). (Figure 4)

InfoWatch currently serves more than 1,500 large customers worldwide with proprietary and patented cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies.

InfoWatch’s full suite of data leak prevention and cybersecurity solutions and can analyse content in Asian languages for the prevention of data leakages, including in Malay, Indonesian and Vietnamese.