Egress Survey: 97% of IT leaders say insider data breaches are “major concern”

Egress, the provider of human layer data security solutions, has announced the findings of its second Global Insider Data Breach Survey. The study found that a staggering 97% of IT leaders say insider breach risk is a significant concern. 78% think employees have put data at risk accidentally in the past 12 months, while 75% believe employees have put data at risk intentionally. When asked about the implications of these breaches, 41% say financial damage would be the area of greatest impact.

This second annual survey looks at the causes, frequency and implications of internal security breach incidents and the perspectives of IT leaders and employees about data risk, responsibility and ownership. Conducted by independent research organisation Opinion Matters in January 2020, more than 500 IT leaders and 5,000 employees were surveyed across the UK, the US and the Benelux.

The results have uncovered serious discrepancies between IT leaders’ perceptions of insider breach risk and causes, and how they are in managing them. They also expose the fact that employees are still confused about data ownership and responsibility.

Asked what traditional security tools they have in place to mitigate insider breach risk, just half of IT leaders said they are using anti-virus software to combat phishing attacks. 48% are using e-mail encryption and 47% provide secure collaboration tools. More than half (58%) say employee reporting is more likely than any breach detection system to alert them to an insider data breach.

Egress CEO Tony Pepper believes the findings show how IT leaders are resigned to the inevitability of insider breaches and don’t have adequate risk management in place. “While they acknowledge the sustained risk of insider data breaches, bizarrely IT leaders have not adopted new strategies or technologies to mitigate the risk. Effectively, they’re adopting a risk posture wherein at least one-third of employees putting data at risk is deemed acceptable.”

Pepper added: “The severe penalties for data breaches mean that IT leaders must action better risk management strategies by using advanced tools to prevent insider data breaches. They also need better visibility of risk vectors. Relying on employees to report incidents is not an acceptable data protection strategy.”

Misdirected and phishing e-mails

41% of employees who had accidentally leaked data said they had done so because of a phishing e-mail. 31% said they caused a breach by sending information to the wrong person, for example, by e-mail. This is underlined by the fact that 45% of respondents to the survey said they had received an outlook recall message or an e-mail asking them to disregard an e-mail sent in error over the last year.

Pepper added: “Incidents of people accidentally sharing data with incorrect recipients have existed for as long as they’ve had access to e-mail. As a fundamental communication tool, organisations and security teams have weighed the advantages of efficiency against data security considerations and frequently compromise on the latter. However, we find ourselves in an unprecedented time of technological development where tools built using contextual machine learning can combat common issues, such as misdirected e-mails, the wrong attachments being added to communications, auto-complete mistakes and employees not using encryption tools correctly. Organisations need to tune into these advances to truly be able to make e-mail safe.”

Erroneous employee views

The survey also showed that employee misconceptions over data ownership have a negative impact on information security. The employee-facing research found 29% of respondents said either they or a colleague had intentionally shared data against company policy in the past year. A worrying 46% said they or a colleague had broken company policy when they took data with them to a new job, while more than a quarter (26%) said they had taken a risk when sharing data because they were not provided with the right security tools.

This reckless approach towards data protection may be explained by employees’ views on data ownership and responsibility. 41% of the employees surveyed don’t believe that data belongs exclusively to the organisation, while only 37% recognise that everyone has responsibility for keeping data safe.

On that note, Pepper explained: “Employees want to own the data they create and work on, but don’t want the responsibility for keeping it safe. This is a toxic combination for data protection efforts. When you add their propensity to take data with them when they change jobs and willingness to take risks when sharing data, the scale of the challenge faced by security professionals is alarming.”

Directors disrespecting data

The survey also highlighted the fact that the more senior the employee, the more cavalier their attitude towards data breaches. 78% of directors have intentionally shared data against company policy in the past year, compared with just 10% of clerical staff.

Directors are the most likely to take data with them to a new job – 68% of those who had intentionally broken policy had done so when they changed jobs when compared with the overall average of 46%.

*Read the full Egress Global Insider Data Breach Survey here

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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