Insiders pose increasing danger to safety of corporate data, according to two new studies published today

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Enterprises are leaking an increasing amount of data from the inside, and they aren't sure what to do about it.

Those are the conclusions of two new studies -- one from the Ponemon Institute and one from Enterprise Strategy Group -- being published today. Both of the reports suggest that enterprises should be shifting their security attention from the outside to the inside.

"The insider threat is far and away the number one threat," says Eric Ogren, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group and one of the authors of the research.

The new Enterprise Strategy Group report found that one third of the enterprises surveyed had experienced a loss of sensitive data in the last 12 months, while another 11 percent were unsure whether a breach occurred.

According to the new Ponemon study, nearly 60 percent of U.S.-based businesses and government agencies believe they are unable to effectively assess or quantify insider threat risks within their organizations, leaving them open to privacy breaches, failed audits, and potential fraud or misuse of data.

While the two reports arrive at similar views on the current state of internal security, they offer different recommendations on how enterprises should respond. The Enterprise Strategy Group study, which was sponsored by information monitoring and protection appliance vendor Reconnex, suggests that 90 percent of companies queried a plan to deploy new technologies to secure their intellectual property in the next 12 months.

"I'm very surprised [at that statistic]," Ogren says. "That's a huge number."

Fifty-eight percent of companies believe the biggest threat to their data is from the inside, the ESG study says. While most companies focus their insider threat prevention efforts on email security, they should be looking at other means of access as well, the study says. One third of companies' sensitive data and IP exists in application databases, where it can be centrally secured and managed, and an additional 28 percent resides in file systems, according to the report.

There are still some organizations that do not inspect such obvious and well-documented leak points as Webmail and IM communications, according to ESG.

The Ponemon study, which was sponsored by identity management vendor SailPoint Technologies, points to inefficient processes, insufficient data, and the lack of collaboration between business and IT groups as the leading causes of risk across the enterprise.

Sixty-four percent of respondents say they have deployed an identity and access management (IAM) solution, including access control, password management, provisioning, and role management. But almost 60 percent of respondents say their companies are unable to effectively focus IAM controls on areas of the greatest business risk, the report states.

Although respondents to the Ponemon study said that responsibility for identity compliance is shared across business groups, IT, and audit/compliance groups, collaboration among them is actually very weak. Forty-two percent of respondents say that collaboration rarely occurs, while another 23 percent say it never occurs.

"In order to assess risk, and identify and address identity management shortcomings, organizations must have access to data and appropriate coordination across business units," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "Our research shows that, for too many companies, this is simply not happening."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

About the Author(s)

Tim Wilson, Editor in Chief, Dark Reading


Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one of the top cyber security journalists in the US in voting among his peers, conducted by the SANS Institute. In 2011 he was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Voices in Security by SYS-CON Media.

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