A Comprehensive Guide to Preventing and Addressing Google Drive Data Leaks
In today’s ever-connected digital world, platforms like Google Drive are essential for effective storage, data sharing, and collaboration. The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent increase in remote work led Google Workspace to reach a staggering 3 billion users in 2021. Despite its many advantages, Google Drive is not immune to data leaks. This guide will provide you with valuable information on preventing Google Drive data leaks, understanding why they occur, and how to handle them when they do happen.
Five Common Causes of Google Drive Data Leaks
Although Google Drive adheres to the highest security standards, including 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for its servers and various measures to secure in-transit data, data leaks can still happen. Here are five primary reasons behind Google Drive data leaks:
1. Human Error
It is often human mistakes that lead to data leaks, such as accidentally sharing a file with the wrong person or placing sensitive information in a public folder. Publicly shared files can be accessed by unauthorized parties and indexed by search engines. Furthermore, granting “Editor” access as the default sharing permission may result in unauthorized file distribution, downloading, or printing.
2. Malicious Intent
Attackers may exploit vulnerabilities or use social engineering techniques to trick employees into sharing unauthorized files. A study found that 72% of employees admit to taking valuable company data before leaving a job, sometimes with ill intentions or for financial gain. The simpliest way in which data can leave your organisation is via an External Google Shared Drive. Here the user can simply move all the files they want over to a Google Shared Drive from another Google Workspace domain and the data has gone.
3. Technical Vulnerabilities
Malware infections or overlooked bugs may expose sensitive company information. Employees might also install third-party apps that require access to Google Drive, making it easier for attackers to access files. This practice, known as “Shadow IT,” is difficult to detect and can go unnoticed for years.
4. Inadequate Security Measures
Your Google Drive’s security is only as strong as your safety protocols. Companies that do not enforce strong passwords or regularly update security settings are more vulnerable to data leaks. Forgotten files shared by former employees can also be accessible and cause leaks if left unaddressed.
5. Organizational Changes
Data leaks can occur during technical restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, or partnerships. In such cases, it is vital to reassess all shared files to prevent unauthorized access.
The Consequences of Google Drive Data Leaks:
Google Drive data leaks can lead to a range of negative outcomes, such as:
- Leakage of sensitive or confidential information, like customer or employee details.
- Loss of competitive advantage due to leaked trade secrets or trademarks.
- Financial impacts from the above, as well as costs associated with damage control and recovery.
- Damage to relationships with customers, partners, or other stakeholders whose data has been exposed or compromised.
- General damage to company reputation and decreased public trust.
- Legal consequences, including fines and lawsuits, due to violation of regulations like GDPR.
Preventing Google Drive Data Leaks
Human factors account for as many as 82% of all data breaches. To prevent Google Drive data leaks, cultivate a proactive attitude towards data protection within your organization. Train employees to share files responsibly, set up secure passwords, exercise caution when using third-party cloud tools, and clean up external file permissions after project completion.
In addition, Google Workspace provides a tool called Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for IT admins. DLP allows you to set up rules for sharing and handling sensitive data. To learn more about DLP and how to configure it for optimal protection, download our free DLP eBook.
Responding to Google Drive Data Leaks:
In case of a Google Drive data leak, follow these steps based on the FTC’s guidelines for data breach response:
Identify the scope: Determine the extent of the leak, including affected files, folders, and users, and whether it is an isolated incident or a system-wide vulnerability. This information will help you understand and address the issue effectively.
Secure the leak: After identifying the compromised files and folders, immediately revoke unauthorized access to prevent further exposure. While DLP is helpful in preventing leaks, it cannot assist after a leak has occurred. Third-party tools like Patronum can help by allowing you to instantly shut off access to any file, folder, user, or entire domain with a single click. Act quickly to minimize damage.
Fix the underlying issue: Identify the source of the leak, whether it was a file-sharing mistake, malicious behavior by internal or external actors, or a failure to follow proper security procedures. The source will determine the preventive measures you need to implement and what information to communicate to external parties.
Notify stakeholders: Transparency is crucial when a leak affects others, such as personal data exposure or confidential information about business partners. Inform all relevant parties about the leak and your planned course of action. In some cases, such as with GDPR, this may be a legal requirement.
Review internal procedures: After addressing the immediate concerns, assess your organization’s policies and security measures. Consider how to prevent file-sharing mistakes, train employees to share files responsibly, and improve your response time to data leaks. Evaluating these factors will help minimize future risks and enhance your ability to handle leaks effectively.
Enhancing Google Drive Security with Patronum
To detect, respond to, and enforce policies to mitigate potential data leaks in Google Drive, consider using Patronum. As a Google partner, Patronum meets the highest security standards and offers the following benefits:
- Understand your file-sharing footprint: Gain a clear overview of your shared files and folders in Google Drive.
- Respond to file-sharing risks promptly: Address data leaks or other risks within seconds to minimize potential damage.
- Enforce end-user-driven security policies: Implement and maintain security policies based on your organization’s needs and best practices.
- By utilizing Patronum alongside Google Drive, you can maintain better control over your shared files and mitigate the risk of data leaks, protecting both your organization and its stakeholders.