E-mail Causes Most Enterprise Data Loss

Breaches associated with social media, video sharing, blogs are also on the rise, finds Proofpoint study.

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Budget constraints are hurting corporations' data-loss prevention efforts, 58% of respondents said. And 48% of those polled blame layoffs for creating an increased risk of data leakage, the study found. Perhaps as a direct result, 21% -- compared with 18% -- had investigated a suspected leak associated with an employee leaving the business, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, according to Proofpoint.

"The level of concern and anxiety about corporate data loss is on the rise, and the recession has only increased the pressure on companies to enforce corporate e-mail and social media policies. It's no longer just an IT department concern," said Gary Steele, CEO of Proofpoint. "We're seeing C-level executives and management paying attention as data loss becomes a very real, public threat to companies."

Regulatory issues concern many enterprises: 74% of respondents are "concerned" or "very concerned" about ensuring compliance with financial disclosure and corporate governance regulations, while 72% are equally worried about protecting the confidentiality of personal identity and financial information in outbound e-mail, the study found. Following close behind, 71% of those surveyed were "concerned" or "very concerned" about making certain that employees or ex-workers cannot use e-mail to disseminate company trade secrets or intellectual property, and ensuring that workers cannot use e-mail to share confidential internal memos.

Many businesses have taken steps to protect private information, with 65% using technologies to detect spam and malware in e-mail, the study found. Fifty-four percent use technology for e-mail archiving, and 48% perform regular audits of outbound e-mail content, according to the report. Enterprises use other technologies, including automatic encryption; software that detects private financial or health data in e-mails; and software that detects intellectual property in outbound e-mail, the study said.

In addition, 37% of companies surveyed employ people who monitor outbound e-mail content, while 33% have staff whose primary or exclusive job is to read or analyze outbound e-mail, Proofpoint said.

To protect corporate data from the newer threat of social media sites, a number of enterprises enacted outright bans on their use. Indeed, 63% bar the use of P2P file-sharing sites; 53% ban Facebook; a similar number outlaw media-sharing sites like YouTube; and 49% prohibit the use of Twitter, the study found. In addition, 40% block employee use of personal webmail; 39% bar the use of personal websites; 38% ban personal use of corporate e-mail during work hours; and 31% prohibit employees' use of LinkedIn, according to Proofpoint.

Corporations have taken other steps, including acceptable use policies for e-mail, blogs, and other postings; ethics policies; and social media policies, the study showed.