Data theft

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Data theft is a growing phenomenon primarily caused by system administrators and office workers with access to technology such as database servers, desktop computers and a growing list of hand-held devices capable of storing digital information, such as USB flash drives, iPods and even digital cameras. Since employees often spend a considerable amount of time developing contacts and confidential and copyrighted information for the company they work for, they may feel they have some right to the information and are inclined to copy and/or delete part of it when they leave the company, or misuse it while they are still in employment. They can be sold and bought and then used by criminals and criminal organizations[1]. Alternatively, an employee may choose to deliberately abuse trusted access to information for the purpose of exposing misconduct by the employer; From the perspective of the society such an act of whistleblowing can be seen as positive[2] and is in certain situations protected by law in some jurisdictions, such as the USA.

A common scenario is where a sales person makes a copy of the contact database for use in their next job. Typically, this is a clear violation of their terms of employment.

Notable acts of data theft include those by leaker Chelsea Manning and self-proclaimed whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Hervé Falciani.

Data theft methods[edit]

The phrase data theft is actually a misnomer, since unlike theft the typical data theft methods typically do not deprive the owner of their data, but rather create an additional, unauthorized copy.


Thumbsucking, similar to podslurping, is the intentional or undeliberate use of a portable USB mass storage device, such as a USB flash drive (or "thumbdrive"), to illicitly download confidential data from a network endpoint.[3]

A USB flash drive was allegedly used to remove without authorization highly classified documents about the design of U.S. nuclear weapons from a vault at Los Alamos.[4]

The threat of thumbsucking has been amplified for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • The storage capacity of portable USB storage devices has increased.
  • The cost of high-capacity portable USB storage devices has decreased.
  • Networks have grown more dispersed, the number of remote network access points has increased and methods of network connection have expanded, increasing the number of vectors for network infiltration.

Investigating data theft[edit]

Techniques to investigate data theft include stochastic forensics, digital artifact analysis (especially of USB drive artifacts), and other computer forensics techniques.


In some countries this term is incorrect because it is considered that theft is of a thing (material object) and information is not a thing.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Xing, Liudong; Levitin, Gregory (November 2017). "Balancing theft and corruption threats by data partition in cloud system with independent server protection". Reliability Engineering & System Safety. 167: 248–254. doi:10.1016/j.ress.2017.06.006.
  2. ^ Schneier, Bruce (10 June 2013). "Government Secrets and the Need for Whistle-blowers". Schneier on Security. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Do you know who is sucking data from your computer?". Archived from the original on August 19, 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  4. ^ Zagorin, Adam "A breach in nuclear security." Archived 2008-01-31 at the Wayback Machine Time, April 19, 2007. Retrieved April 21, 2007
  5. ^ Código civil Argentino art. 2311
  6. ^ Código penal Argentino art. 164

External links[edit]