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Vulnerabilities / Threats

Most IT Pros Circumvent File Transfer Security Policies

Survey finds 69% of IT managers regularly send highly sensitive information -- payroll, customer, or financial data -- via unsecured e-mail, finds Ipswitch study.




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Nearly half of all employees admit to sending highly sensitive or regulated information -- the kind which, if lost or stolen, could trigger a data breach notification under many states' laws -- at least once per week.

That finding comes from a newly released survey of about 130 IT professionals conducted at this year's InfoSecurity Europe conference in London by file transfer security vendor Ipswitch.

"Employees will almost always take the path of least resistance, even if that unintentionally means violating company policies and breaking security protocols," said L. Frank Kenney, VP of global strategy for Ipswitch, in a statement.

Speaking of protocols, 62% of surveyed organizations do have security policies that specify how files may be shared or must be secured for transit. But 72% said their firm doesn't have any visibility into how files get moved internally or externally, meaning that those file-related security policies are not actually being monitored, enforced, or audited.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, given the lack of enforcement, 69% of respondents say they use plain, unencrypted e-mails and attachments to send highly sensitive or regulated information at least once per month, and 34% say they do it daily. The biggest drivers are obvious: speed, convenience, and being able to move large files.

Their behavior may fall foul of corporate policies, since 40% of respondents admit to using their personal e-mail accounts to help eliminate the trail of what they've sent, and who they've sent it to.

"With thousands of gigabytes of information moving in and out of companies every month, executives need visibility into who's sending, receiving, and forwarding business-critical documents -- for security and compliance purposes," said Kenney. "It's far too easy for information to get into the wrong hands."

Numerous data breaches, for example, result not from attackers hacking into corporate systems, but because a courier loses an unencrypted backup tape en route to a storage facility.

A similar risk faces users of mobile or portable devices with big storage capacities, such as a USB drive, BlackBerry, or iPhone, which can be easily lost or stolen. Today, 70% of interviewees said they access and store company files and data using their mobile devices, webmail, and remote connections. In addition, 41% use their own storage devices, such as a USB drive, to back up important work files.

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