Data breaches caused by human error, hardware theft

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Human error and hardware theft are the two main causes of data breaches, according to Symantec’s recent survey into Data Loss Prevention.

The global security, storage and systems management company surveyed 156 Australian companies with 100 or more employees. Results were sent in from IT managers and C-level executives. The majority of respondents represented businesses with a financial turnover of $10-$500 million.

The survey’s headline result is that 79 per cent of respondents have experienced some form of data breach, and 40 per cent have experienced anywhere from six to 20 known data breaches in the past five years.

Further, 59 per cent of respondents suspect that they have experienced undetected data breaches, with many considering it “impossible” to catch every attempted breach.

Respondents lost different kinds of data, including customer records (55 per cent); employee records (48 per cent); intellectual property (43 per cent); commercially sensitive information (35 per cent); bank and credit card details (21 per cent) and financial information (20 per cent).

Lost or stolen laptops were the top cause of data breaches, at 45 per cent. “Respondents estimated that the average cost of a data breach was the same as replacing a lost laptop,” said Steve Martin, Mid Market Manager Pacific. “But I believe that’s too low, since it doesn’t take into account the potential value of the data.”

Lost mobile phones or portable devices also weighed in at 30 per cent. “A phone is the easiest thing to lose, and the easiest thing to steal,” said Martin. “Whenever I ask groups if they have email access on their phones, and whether their phone is password protected, the second number is always very low.”

The other key cause of data breaches was accidental human error (42 per cent). Craig Scroggie, VP and MD Pacific, cited the case of a restaurant which accidentally emailed 3,500 customers a copy of their client database, containing names, addresses and dates of birth.

Malicious attacks included hacked systems (29 per cent), malicious insiders (28 per cent), paper records being smuggled out of an organisation (26 per cent) and malicious code infiltrating systems (24 per cent).

“Today’s organisations have no walls and information can be anywhere, so securing the perimeter is no longer adequate. Additionally, many organisations believe that confidential information is most at risk from malicious acts when employees are mobile and not connected to the corporate network,” said Scroggie.

Among intentional security breaches of company secrets or intellectual property, 77 per cent said that data was copied to removable storage devices, and 51 per cent said that printed paper records were removed from the premises.

Other methods of moving stolen data included email or instant messaging (41 per cent), posting to public websites (26 per cent) and copying or photographing confidential data onto mobile phones or PDAs (21 per cent).

Scroggie emphasised that Data Loss Prevention required a holistic approach to protect customers, brands and intellectual property.

“We can stop these problems today,” said Scroggie. “We have the ability to discover, monitor and protect confidential data.”

Data breaches caused by human error, hardware theft
 
 
 
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