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60% of Businesses Mistakenly Sent out Sensitive Documents

Some 43% of organizations say they lack widely understood policies for securing internal documents.

First it was Edward Snowden's infamous leak of sensitive NSA files and now WikiLeaks leaking alleged stolen documents from the CIA: document security once again is front and center for organizations.

A new study of more than 200 business owners, CEOs, executives, and knowledge workers by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network found that while most are concerned about cyberattack-borne breaches of critical documents, the top concern by far is an employee accidentally sending out confidential information.

According to the study, 61% worry about an employee sending out confidential information to a wrong party, while 41% are concerned about breaches of critical documents. And most telling, six in 10 say either they or someone they've worked with have mistakenly sent out documents that they shouldn't have.

Some 43% also report that their company does not have widely understood policies for document security. This has grown in importance as confidential information has been embedded in documents with significant frequency. Close to 75% of respondents say they or their staff produce documents containing sensitive information on a least a weekly basis, and more than 33% do so daily.

"Clearly, document security is a very big unmet challenge," says Dave Murray, director of thought leadership for the BPI Network. "Companies must do a better job educating their employees and integrating tools such as connected documents or 'Smart PDFs' that let users encrypt and recall a document."

Frank Dickson, a research director at IDC, notes that even if the breach is not from a malicious source, it is not necessarily less damaging.

"An accidental breach is still a breach and can be as big as anything else," Dickson says. "Especially when you’re talking about the ability of employees to make mistakes."

Other hot button worries: sensitive documents shared by outside partners without permission (34%); documents purposely leaked to outsiders by employees (33%); former employees leaving with documents on their own personal devices (26%); and improperly altered documents put into circulation (22%).

In terms of repercussions from stolen or breached documents, responses ranged from reputational damage (53%) to lawsuits (41%) and lost time and productivity seeking to fix the problem (40%). Another 39% cited competitive risks and 34% are concerned that such an incident could cost them their jobs. Only 21% they are concerned about revenue loss.

The BPI Network report was commissioned by Foxit Software, a maker of secure PDF software. 

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