of Data Theft :
Storing data digitally on networks and systems creates the
possibility for anyone to know a lot about us if they can
access this data. Given this power vested in data, it is
normal that theft and various other misuses of data would
also start proliferating.
What is Data Theft?
Data theft is the illegal access to data without the user’s
authorisation. In other words, if a company’s server has
been accessed by a hacker it is a case of data theft and
reading the mails of your colleague would also amount to
the same in the eyes of the law. It is irrelevant whether
you used this data for misdeeds later or not – what counts
is that the data that is not yours has been accessed (read,
edited, or copied) – without prior permission of its
authorised user who may also be its creator.
Types of Data Theft
Data can be stolen in many ways. Below are a few examples
of the way data theft happens.
Hacking: This is by far the most common way of
data with least chances of getting caught. A hacker gets
into a system where he or she is not supposed to be, and
steals whatever data was aimed at.
Hackers find their
‘gate way’ through gaps in the security system or by
hoodwinking gullible employees / surfers in order to gain
access to a system.
Posing: Appearances can be deceiving. The attractive
website that has popped up offering you a great holiday
treat may actually be a data thief trying to get into your
system under the ‘mask’ of a piece of harmless spam. In a
case of corporate data theft last year, the thief posed as
a potential customer and got entry to a company’s data
bank through the computer of an employee who did not
suspect anything in his eagerness to catch a potential
Is the cursor moving about on its own even
when you have not touched the mouse? Does the indicator
show that a programme is running even when you are not
working on anything and have no windows open? Do not
ignore the symptoms – a data thief is already sitting in
your computer. Remote access allows the thief to gain
control of your machine from wherever he or she is and
operate it, steal data from it, and even distribute virus
Spyware is often brought in by
adware. The thief
may not sit in your system, but your key strokes or mouse
clicks would be spied upon, revealing what you are doing
and ‘reading’ the data as you put it in. And you have
opened the gate by clicking on an innocent looking ad.
Podslurping: Music is now stored in
iPods for almost all
domestic users. You would usually not suspect an employee
rocking to music while working as usual. The thief knows
this and is using the iPod to obtain data outputs from the
computer where it is plugged in.
Bluetooth devices have become popular in a
very short while. Using his or her Bluetooth-enabled
phone or laptop, the data thief lifts data from a
restricted computer in silence and mostly unnoticed.
Thumbsucking: Another tiny and dangerous device is the
storage drive. All an employee needs to do is plug in a
pen drive, and 2 GB of data would flow in quietly into the
pocket from the computer.
Who Steals Data:
Possible data thieves are:
Professional hackers are doing the dirty jobs for
increasingly high prices.
Corporate espionage is now a specialised ‘blue collar’
Disgruntled or overambitious employees may also be a
How to Protect Data
A few mandatory steps would include:
Installing and maintaining antivirus software, firewall,
encryption and tracking systems for intranet access.
Granting limited and monitored use of the
Not allowing USB ports in office computers and not
allowing Bluetooth-enabled devices within the work area.
Maintaining updated backup.
Dangers Posed by Data Theft to Companies
What kind of damages can be done to corporate houses?
Loss of business data and accounts is the first step.
The customer database may be stolen and sold. .
Personal information of employees and customers can be
Research data is another favourite with thieves.
Loss of reputation in the market, police enquiries and
negative publicity would follow.
About the author:
James Walsh is a freelance writer and copy editor. If you
are concerned about data loss and would like more
information on Data Recovery see
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on preventing identity theft,preventing
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