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Almost every day, we wake up to news about data breach, data manipulation and identity breaking into an essential system, stealing the data, and causing significant damage to the organization. However, did you know that cyber attackers can now tarnish the finance, reputation, and brand image of the organization without even stealing the data? Read through to understand what data manipulation is.

What is data manipulation?

Essentially, data manipulation is a fraudulent cyber activity wherein a malicious actor alters, tweaks, or modifies the valuable digital documents and critical data instead of straight away stealing the data to damage the organization and make of the misery.

Let’s give you an instance-

Say, a cyber attacker breaks into the IT system wherein there is a database of credentials to privileged accounts containing extremely price sensitive and critical business information that only key people can access. The attacker alters the data base by adding a couple of more accounts and configures the credentials for the same; this way, unauthorized parties can easily get access and will stealthily keep an eye on all the sensitive business information.

Data manipulation is considered a serious cybercrime and rightly so. In the example give above, since the attackers were able to manipulate and include the accounts of unauthorized parties in the official database, it becomes difficult for the organization to detect the damages and realize that something suspicious has happened.

Data manipulation can be an insider job too. The insiders can cause threats through phishing attacks, downloading, or accessing substantial amount of data with the intention to misuse it, using unauthorized storage devices, request multiple times for access to resources not related to their job function and more.

Now that you have understood that data manipulation is potentially sabotaging, and causes massive damages to the organization, let’s answer an important question…

How do you prevent data manipulation?

Organizations can successfully counter data manipulation by ensuring that optimal security is achieved with the popular cyber security paradigm- CIA Triade (Confidentiality, integrity, and availability) that includes:

  • Data Integrity Check – it is the process of comparing previously stored data with the current data to check for the latest updates, changes, or modifications. You may opt for installing a software that does a quick integrity check on your data and detects potential threats.
  • Endpoint Security – The network and connections should be secure and clutter-free. Think of this- the attacker can manipulate the data only if he can access it in the first place. So, endpoint security management by network segmentation and secure authentication like 2FA/MFA, the access to the unauthorized party will be denied upright.
  • Manual data activity monitoring – The fact that as many as 47% of US organizations have no individual or a functional group to monitor unauthorized activity is quite alarming. As much as we automate the processes, nothing beats vigilant monitoring. So, the data should be frequently monitored manually to check for suspicious modifications and changes.
  • High Level Encryption – One thing is certain; only the data that can be read and interpreted clearly can be manipulated. So, if the digital documents carry a 256-bit (military-grade encryption), it becomes significantly harder for the attacker to make any changes to the data he cannot decipher in the first place.

Just as businesses explore digital possibilities, the malicious actors will also resort to more sophisticated attacks. So, how common would data manipulation attacks become in the future?

Data manipulation in the future of security:

According Keith Alexandar, former Director, National Security Agency, “Data manipulation is an emerging art of cyber war”. Also, James Clapper, Director, National Security Agency, said that in the future there will be more cyber operations that will change or manipulate electronic information to compromise its integrity…instead of deleting it or disrupting access to it.

So, it is imperative to inculcate the CIA Triade approach in your organization and a smarter way to do so is to deploy a robust IAM suite that not only delivers Access Management but also Identity Governance and Administration, Customer Identity and Access Management, Privileged Access Management, a robust Risk Engine, among other functions.

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