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Last updated 2017-08-10

Sensitive Data Exposure

Learn more about sensitive data exposure vulnerability
Threat Agents Attack Vectors Security Weakness Technical Impacts Business Impacts
Application Specific Exploitability
DIFFICULT
Prevalence
UNCOMMON
Detectability
AVERAGE
Impact
SEVERE
Application / Business Specific
Consider who can gain access to your sensitive data and any backups of that data. This includes the data at rest, in transit, and even in your customers’ browsers. Include both external and internal threats.

Attackers typically don’t break crypto directly. They break something else, such as steal keys, do man-in-the-middle attacks, or steal clear text data off the server, while in transit, or from the user’s browser.

The most common flaw is simply not encrypting sensitive data. When crypto is employed, weak key generation and management, and weak algorithm usage is common, particularly weak password hashing techniques. Browser weaknesses are very common and easy to detect, but hard to exploit on a large scale. External attackers have difficulty detecting server side flaws due to limited access and they are also usually hard to exploit.

Failure frequently compromises all data that should have been protected. Typically, this information includes sensitive data such as health records, credentials, personal data, credit cards, etc.

Consider the business value of the lost data and impact to your reputation. What is your legal liability if this data is exposed? Also consider the damage to your reputation.

How Do I Prevent 'Sensitive Data Exposure'?

The full perils of unsafe cryptography, SSL usage, and data protection are well beyond the scope of the Top 10. That said, for all sensitive data, do all of the following, at a minimum:

  1. Considering the threats you plan to protect this data from (e.g., insider attack, external user), make sure you encrypt all sensitive data at rest and in transit in a manner that defends against these threats.
  2. Don’t store sensitive data unnecessarily. Discard it as soon as possible. Data you don’t have can’t be stolen.
  3. Ensure strong standard algorithms and strong keys are used, and proper key management is in place. Consider using FIPS 140 validated cryptographic modules.
  4. Ensure passwords are stored with an algorithm specifically designed for password protection, such as bcrypt, PBKDF2, or scrypt.
  5. Disable autocomplete on forms collecting sensitive data and disable caching for pages that contain sensitive data.

Learn more on https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Top_10_2013-A6-Sensitive_Data_Exposure