Survey: Companies Not Following Data Security Policies

Companies are not following simple data security procedures in seven high-risk scenarios, according to new research announced recently by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy and information management research firm. The report, Data Security Policies Are Not Enforced, was sponsored by RedCannon Security, a trusted provider of centrally managed, secure mobile-access solutions for the enterprise.

According to the study, 39 percent of employees surveyed said they have lost a PDA, cellular phone, USB memory stick, zip drive or laptop computer that contained sensitive or confidential business information, while, 56 percent believe their employer would never be able to determine the type of data contained on a lost device.

"Privacy and data protection policies are meaningless if they do not address the full spectrum of threats and if they are not enforced, and our research points to an urgent need to address this pervasive vulnerability in corporate data security programs," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute. "The development of comprehensive policies, along with training and stringent enforcement of those policies should be a priority in any enterprise-wide data security program."

Data Security Policies Are Not Enforced highlights: risks associated with the storage and transportation of confidential information, policies regarding lost portable devices, the lack of enforcement of existing policies concerning data security, and employees' lack of awareness about such policies. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said their organization has a policy to deal with the loss of a portable storage device containing sensitive information.

With today's technology, data is more portable than ever before. E-Mail, smartphones, MP3 players and USB memory sticks are all examples of the many ways data can be transported and viewed away from computers, creating big challenges for IT professionals trying to secure confidential and personal information. Derived from a survey of 893 IT professionals, the Data Security Policies Are Not Enforced reveals a number of key findings in reference to this problem, including:

                                              Evidence of non-compliance
                                              with a company's data security
  Seven survey scenarios  Experience rates    policy

  1. Copying confidential 51 percent do it.   87 percent believe that company's
  information onto USB                        policy forbids it.
  memory stick.

  2. Accessing Web-based  45 percent do it.   74 percent state there is no stated
  e-mail accounts from                        policy that forbids it.
  workplace computer.

  3. Losing a portable    39 percent          72 percent did not report lost or
  data-bearing device.    lost or misplaced   missing device immediately.
                          a portable
                          data-bearing
                          device.

  4. Downloading personal 45 percent do it.   60 percent state there is no stated
  software onto company                       policy that forbids it.
  assigned computer.

  5. Sending workplace    33 percent do it.   48 percent state they are unsure
  documents to home                           whether this violates policy.
  computer as an
  attachment in e-mail.

  6. Turning off security 17 percent do it.    80 percent are unsure whether this
  settings or firewall                         violates policy.
  on workplace computer.

  7. Sharing passwords    46 percent do it.    67 percent believe that company's
  with coworkers.                              policy forbids it.

"Data breaches remain the leading cause of financial losses in business, with more than 75 percent of Fortune 1000 companies falling victim to data leakage, and this is not going to change without improvements in the enforcement of data security policies," said Vimal Vaidya, founder and CEO at RedCannon. "This study clearly indicates key data management practices that have a serious impact on data security and regulatory compliance, and highlights ways organizations can bolster policy enforcement and reduce the risks of potential data loss."

The study offers insights into the challenges facing IT professionals trying to secure confidential data. It identifies problems with the current rules in effect at the workplace, as well as the problems with enforcement of those rules. Most importantly, it shows employee naivete towards this problem, with most staff members unaware of the rules in place, or uncaring due to lack of obvious consequences. The survey offers information on what is the most frequently lost portable storage device, the numbers of employees downloading personal software onto work computers, and statistics concerning how many portable devices that were lost had unprotected data on them, among other similarly invaluable information.

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