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Employees regarded as an organization's greatest asset but also one of the biggest data security risks

News   •   Jul 24, 2017 09:10 BST

IT professionals believe that compliance and regulation and the unpredictable behaviour of employees will have the biggest impact on data security, according to a survey commissioned by HANDD Business Solutions.

The UK study found that 21% of respondents say regulations, legislation and compliance will be one of the two greatest business challenges to impact data security. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is causing real concern among professionals in their bid to be compliant by the deadline in less than 12 months. GDPR will not only raise the privacy bar for companies across the EU, but will also impose extra data protection burdens on them.

HANDD CEO and Co-Founder, Ian Davin, commented: “Companies must change their mindset and look at data, not as a fungible commodity, but as a valuable asset. Data is more valuable than a pot of gold, which puts companies in a challenging position as the stewards of that data. C-suite executives must understand the data protection challenges they face and implement a considered plan and methodical approach to protecting sensitive data.

Worryingly, 41% of those surveyed assign the same level of security resources and spend for all company data, regardless of its importance. Analysing and documenting the characteristics of each data item is a vital part of its journey through an organization. A robust data classification system will see all data tagged with markers defining useful attributes, such as sensitivity level or a retention requirement and ensuring that an organization understands completely which data requires greater levels of protection.

While 43% of those surveyed think that employees are an organization’s greatest asset, more than a fifth (21%) believe that the behaviour of employees and their reactions to social engineering attacks, which can trick them into sharing user credentials and sensitive data, also poses a big challenge to data security.

Danny Maher, CTO at HANDD, commented: “Employees are probably your biggest asset, yet they are also your weakest link, and so raising user awareness and improving security consciousness are hugely important for companies that want to drive a culture of security throughout their organization.

Storage is also a key problem area, with more than a third (35%) citing that ensuring data is stored securely, and whether it's on premise or in the cloud, as their biggest challenge and most likely to keep them awake at night. A data record’s classification will enable a company to make these decisions, automatically and definitively dictating its location and whether an encryption policy should apply.

Having stored data to comply with its security policy, an organization must ensure that an access management system is in place, which understands roles and responsibilities and allows users to see only the information that they need. In HANDD’s survey, less than half (45%) of IT professionals are confident that they have an identity access management process in place which dictates that users must have different privileges depending on their roles and responsibilities, while 15% have no access management system in place at all.

Data breaches, and the disruptive impact they can have on an organization, are the second greatest concern for business continuity and resilience professionals, according to the Business Continuity Institute's latest Horizon Scan Report. 81% of respondents to a global survey expressed concern about the prospect of a breach occurring, making it essential that organizations have mechanisms in place to reduce the chances of a breach occurring, and also have plans in place to respond to such an incident and help lessen its impact.

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