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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Companies Fall Short On Protecting Sensitive Data, Study Says

Compliance-driven programs detract from efforts to secure real intellectual property, Forrester Research finds

Enterprises are pushing hard to protect credit card data and customers' personal information, but they might not be doing enough to protect their most valuable company secrets, according to a study published today. http://www.rsa.com/go/press/RSATheSecurityDivisionofEMCNewsRelease_4510.html The study, which was conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of Microsoft and RSA, suggests that compliance-driven security initiatives place too much emphasis on securing customer records and other "custodial information," while shortchanging efforts to secure intellectual property and valuable company secrets.

"Secrets" comprise more than two-thirds of companies' information portfolios and more than 62 percent of the value of those portfolios, according to the study. But when it comes to investing time and resources, enterprises spend roughly the same amount of time and money on compliance-driven initiatives -- protecting "custodial data," Forrester says -- as they do on protecting corporate secrets.

"This strongly suggests that investments are overweighed toward compliance," the study says.

The study argues that accidental data leaks, which are the most frequent, seldom cause real loss of secrets. "By contrast, employee theft of sensitive information is 10 times costlier on a per-incident basis than any single incident caused by accidents: hundreds of thousands of dollars versus tens of thousands," Forrester says.

Companies that have the most valuable information are those that are attacked most frequently, according to the study. "The 'portfolio value' of the information managed by the top quartile of enterprises was 20 times higher than the bottom quartile," Forrester reports. "These high-value enterprises had four times as many security incidents as low-value firms.

"High-value firms are not sufficiently protecting data from theft and abuse by third parties. They had six times more data security incidents due to outside parties than low-value firms, even though the number of third parties they work with is only 60 percent greater."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, 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 ... View Full Bio

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