Information leakage in Data Loss Prevention leader companies

ElevenPaths  16 agosto, 2013
Gartner has released a study that classifies the most important
companies that offer Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions
depending on their
position, strategy, effectiveness, and market leadership. We have made a
little experiment to test if these same companies control metadata leaks in
their own services, as a potential sensible data leak point.

According to the “Magic Quadrant for Content-Aware Data LossPrevention” research made by Gartner in 2014 over 50% of companies will use
some kind of DLP-solution to keep their private data safe
but only 30% will use
a content based solution. 
This same research lists which are the leading companies in terms
of data loss prevention establishing a scale based on factors such as
Content-Aware proportioned DLP, DLP-Lite products and if a DLP channel is
available for the user to clarify doubts about regulatory compliances, for

This study made by Gartner determines which are the leader companies when preventing leaking information, establishing as measurement factors to generate leadership indicators as: provided content-aware DLP solutions, DLP-Lite products offered or if they provide a DLP channel to the user so he can clarify doubts about compliments, for instance.

Data Loss Prevention leading companies, by Gartner
Do these companies avoid information
loss through metadata in their systems?
We conducted an analysis of
the main web pages of these aforementioned companies that were included in
Gartner’s study using MetaShieldForensics. Metashield automatically downloaded and analyzed every document
exposed on the corporative webs of the companies.
The following table displays the results. Every single company
leaks metadata associated to their public documents
that are being exposed on
the Internet. Seemingly these documents are not being cleaned and are therefore
a potential private information leaking point that is to be taken into account.
Information leakage exposed by companies that provide DLP tools and services
Based on this information we proceded to graph the data showing
the amount of information being leaked by the studied DLP companies. Logically
the companies that most suffer of information leaks also have more publicly
available documents in their web pages.
Information leakage exposed by companies that provide DLP tools and services
Names or account names followed by internal directories where
the documents were created are the most commonly leaked pieces of information.
Another usual leak is the the software version being used when generating the
document. This group of information is valuable for a potential attack.
Let’s see some details about the leaked information:
  • Users and user accounts: The
    internal usernames and their mail accounts are very noteworthy. This
    information can help the attacker to forge a more complex and sophisticated

  • Paths to internal web
    Some of these provide valuable information about the internal
    network. For example, one of the documents contained an URL that points to an
    OpenNMS portal (…/). OpenNMS is
    offered by Symantec as a solution for network administrators for controlling
    critical services in remote machines.

  • Internal user directories:
    The most common directories that are found contain user information in default
    paths such as “Desktop, My documents…”. For example, “C:Documents and
    Settingsholly_waggonerM20Documents****** Webpress2004” was detected in
    one of the DLP companies
  • Network printers: This is
    also a very common leak. Network printers that expose information about their
    exact model and the server they’re associated with (either name or internal IP

  • Software used by the company:
    It is very common to leak the software being used by the company for generating
    a document. The most common piece of information refers to PDF documents which
    are very popular for publications.

  • Other metadata that exposes private information: A rather unusual but
    curious case is custom metadata generated in some documents which can result in
    a much more relevant leak than one can think at first sight. For example,
    properties like the subject of a specific email, an attachment or to whom it
    was sent can expose clues and evidence of internal business strategies like
    relations between companies or workers

Metadata may still be widely unregarded when controlling
information flow exposed on corporative webpages or simply sharing documents..
Information leak can happen at very different levels and in
different ways.
Document loss, non-controlled publication and non-intentioned
document exposing is indeed a clear example of a problem to be avoided, however
document metadata can’t be despised either, specially by a company that offers
data loss prevention solutions.
Metadata and information leak shall not be regarded as a singular
incident that only provides an attacker a document, an email or sensitive data
It’s also a process that a determined attacker will invest his time into.
Depending on the implemented solutions and how protected the company is the
attacker will gather all possible information taking advantage of every single
leak (as inconsequential as they may seem) for getting to know his target and
forging an attack.
The companies that offer solutions against information loss should
take it into account in their own products. For example, erasing of metadata is
a compulsory task for the Civil Service according to the “Esquema Nacional de
Seguridad” (National Security Scheme) and LOPD.
MetaShield Protector is a solution that some of them chosed.

Rubén Alonso Cebrián

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