Survey: Many Large Enterprises Underestimate Risk From Terminated Employees

93% of large enterprise IT admins say there is no risk from former employees, yet more than half have limited knowledge of employee access rights to systems

June 15, 2009

3 Min Read


FRAMINGHAM, Mass., June 15 /PRNewswire/ --

WHAT:Courion(R) Corporation, leaders in access governance, provisioning and compliance, releases survey results revealing that while a vast majority (93%) of organizations are confident that terminated employees pose no security risk to their systems by virtue of legacy access, many have limited or no knowledge of the systems to which their active and terminated employees have access. This unwarranted confidence in system security leaves companies vulnerable to attacks such as the recent "zombie account" breach at the California Water Service Company (CWSC), in which an ex-employee returned to his office after hours and successfully transferred $9 million to offshore bank accounts in Qatar, using his old password to access privileged accounts.

DETAILS: Conducted through May 2009, a global survey of 236 business managers from large enterprises - more than half from companies with at least 10,000 employees - reveals that 53% of IT managers are largely unaware of employee access rights to systems. This causes a proliferation of zombie accounts - accounts that remain active after employees have left the company. However, these same administrators say they have a high level of confidence that zombie accounts cannot trigger a malicious attack or perpetrate a data leak, despite evidence to the contrary, such as the recent CWSC incident.

Other key survey results include:

-- Nearly one in three companies (30%) still manually provision user accounts, increasing the likelihood of human error or delays when de-provisioning departing employees - and ultimately the risk of data theft via zombie accounts. -- Almost half (48%) of organizations currently take more than one business day to alert IT departments of employee terminations. -- Close to one quarter (23%) of companies surveyed also take another day or more to switch off employee access to their systems, creating a substantial window of opportunity for malicious former employees. -- Almost 1 in 10 companies (9%) said they could never be completely certain that terminated employees no longer have access to IT systems. -- More than one third (34%) of business managers reported that it can take up to a week or longer to be completely certain that terminated employees do not have access to systems.

These figures suggest that IT administrators may be overconfident in their ability to prevent data breach threats from zombie accounts, which can cost organizations millions of dollars in damages and tarnish brand reputation. Courion recommends careful inspection of Access Assurance policies to ensure that the right users have the right access to the right resources and are doing the right things.

To arrange an interview with experts who can discuss user provisioning and Access Assurance policies, contact:

Mariah Torpey Davies Murphy Group [email protected] 781-418-2404

About Courion

Courion's award-winning Access Assurance solutions are used by more than four hundred organizations and over 7.5 million users worldwide to quickly and easily solve their most complex identity and access management (password management, provisioning, and role management), risk and compliance challenges. Courion's business-driven approach results in unparalleled customer success by ensuring users' access rights and activities are compliant with policy while supporting both security and business objectives. For more information, please visit our website at, our blog at, or on Twitter at

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