Have Your Executives Been Breached?

Breaches & LeaksExecutive ProtectionInformation Security

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Recent research found that 99% of executives have personally identifiable information (PII) on over three-dozen data broker websites. There were more than three personal email addresses for every executive record on average. Cybercriminals are increasingly exploiting the PII of executives and taking advantage of their unique authority and broad access to sensitive information and systems. Executives and organizations cannot take control of risk without fully understanding where and what information is stored and potentially leaked. To do this, security teams must look beyond network walls and consider the entire attack surface which now expands into public online networks. 

3 Tips to Make Executives Less Vulnerable

Threat actors recognize the vulnerability of executives and see them as the path of least resistance to move laterally into the organization that they lead. Here are 3 actionable steps security teams can take to make their executives less susceptible to digital attacks.

1. Make sure executives are following security policies.

This is truly one of the most proactive, simple, and obvious actions executives can take toward reducing their vulnerability compared to other high-profile targets. In addition to basic security practices such as strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA), organizations must ensure their security policy addresses the need for proper PII management. Executives need to be knowledgeable of the changing digital threat landscape and the dangers that their information can pose to both themselves and the organization as a whole.

2. Conduct digital risk assessments for executives.

Digital risk assessments give security teams the awareness they need to fully understand where executives and their digital identifiers exist across the public attack surface. This is key to identifying executive vulnerabilities and attack surface reduction opportunities so that organizations can take mitigating efforts. Once the digital risk assessment is completed and exposed assets are identified, the details of their vulnerabilities can be investigated to predict potential exploitation attempts. Established organizations with a comprehensive attack service can now scale their protection and capture a full picture of where executive data exists on the public attack surface with platforms and services like Media Sonar.

3. Limit what’s actually out there.

Security teams and their executives must work toward suppressing as much existing PII related to executives as they can and be cautious about reintroducing new information on the public attack surface. This won’t stop them from being a target altogether, but it will make it more difficult for threat actors and they’ll inevitably target someone else. There are services out there in which you can pay to keep your executive’s information away from data brokers, but generally speaking, the complete obliteration of PII is near impossible – especially when it hits the Dark Web. If someone promotes leaked information through the surface web and channels like Twitter, that’s a breach of the individual site’s terms of service. As mentioned above, the focus should be more on gaining awareness of the attack surface and understanding where your executive’s information exists.

Breaches are Top of Mind for Business Resilience

Despite an organization’s best efforts, breaches do occur. Threat actors are replicating rapidly, and technology is getting to a place where it’s too easy to breach the weak ones. While it’s not destiny and we’re not all going to get breached, security professionals should adopt the mindset of “it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when” in terms of experiencing a breach. That time might not be tomorrow – it could be 6 months or a year down the line. By taking measures to provide greater visibility into digital risks now, organizations can avoid being blindsided by the exposure of executive’s information before it becomes available for access and abuse in the future.

executive protection
In a poll of 244 security professionals performed by the Media Sonar research team, breaches and leaks were a top priority for executive protection.

Responding to Data Breaches

In the event of an incident, time is invaluable. Communication and information spread nearly at the speed of light in our digital world. Once a breach is detected, the focus should shift to understanding how that changes the threat landscape for the organization and use it as a marker to adopt better policies, techniques, and procedures. In order to remediate financial repercussions and brand damage as quickly as possible, organizations must ask themselves these five questions: 

  1. Do we understand the who, what, when, where, and how of the vulnerability? 
  2. What measures are we taking to control the damage as much as possible?
  3. Are the actions we are taking part of an established plan or are they reactive countermeasures?
  4. What are the impacts on our customers now and in the future?
  5. What was the aftermath of the breach in terms of churn and public sentiment?

Your Security Posture Matters

Many organizations are already looking beyond their network walls when it comes to protecting executives’ information but are doing so manually. Legacy tools and processes aren’t built to collect, triage, and verify the volume and complexity of human-generated content to effectively identify leaked information associated with executives.

Media Sonar reduces the time and expertise needed to search and consolidate information where executives and their digital identifiers engage – allowing security teams to focus on decision-making and remediation. Here’s how:

  • Build, enrich and store the key digital identifiers of the executives that you are looking to protect. 
  • Access expert-built queries to apply industry-curated keyword groups across social media, code-sharing sites, paste sites, forums, and marketplaces where leaked credentials and data are bought, sold and discussed.
  • Draw conclusions on results using an interactive, single-pane dashboard and automatically produce a comprehensive yet easily consumable report of information leaks related to executives and other corporate assets. 

Leverage Our Expertise

Media Sonar Digital Risk Assessments provide organizations with an analyst-generated summary of identified risks and exposures.

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