Digital criminals have developed a reputation for being blunt, but many are starting to become a lot more sophisticated. While there is nothing subtle about attacks that leave entire networks’ worth of data encrypted and inaccessible until a ransom is paid, some criminals are realizing that a lighter touch can pay even larger dividends. By gaining illicit access to a company’s digital resources, a criminal with a certain level of skill and intelligence can make careful modifications that could go unnoticed. The subtlest, most successful forms of data sabotage can cost a company millions of dollars, over time, without even raising alarms.

Although this more advanced form of digital crime remains in its infancy, experts are already sounding the sirens. By warning businesses early on about this rapidly developing threat, they hope to make it much less likely that significant losses will be incurred. Just as all businesses today have duty to guard against the blunt, overt forms of digital crime that have become so common, so do they need to start thinking about how to ward off these much less obvious forms of harm.

One way of protecting against such attacks is to install software that monitors accesses and modifications to important data. By keeping reliable logs of all activity that touches valuable data in any way, it can be made much less likely that any illegitimate changes will escape notice. At the same time, having some means of flagging especially suspicious modifications, additions, or deletions will also go a long way toward highlighting any problems that need to be looked at right away.

Of course, maintaining strong defenses of other kinds can certainly help, as well. Criminals bent on this kind of sabotage can only achieve their goals if they are able to exploit vulnerabilities to gain access in the first place. In many cases, it will therefore be a renewed emphasis on securing a digital perimeter that will matter even more than any provisions that aim specifically at putting a halt to sabotage. By seeing to at least these basic precautions in every case, companies can make it much less likely that they will fall prey to this increasingly common and dangerous sort of digital crime.