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Is All of Your Confidential Information Protected?

April 14, 2009

Summary

The findings of a recent survey should sound the alarm across all industries: confidential data is walking out the door with departing employees. Find out what you can do to ensure that all your confidential information is protected.
Remember when viruses and Trojans were the top security concerns at most enterprises?
Today it’s no longer a matter of preventing confidential data from getting into the hands of the bad guys. Businesses now are expected to handle such data responsibly, often in accordance with strict legal requirements.
But as Rich Mogull, a former security analyst at Gartner Inc. has observed (“Data Drain,” Security Magazine, February, 2008), the average organization typically has little idea of where its confidential data is or how it’s being used.
This article looks at how a comprehensive protection strategy is necessary to ensure that all confidential information – across endpoint, network, and storage systems – is protected whether users are on or off the corporate network.

Data loss risks in a ‘down’ economy

Challenges around data protection and insider threats have changed dramatically over the past few years. Organizations today rely more on high-speed networks and mobile computing to increase the productivity of their workforce. Large volumes of information can be easily shared and accessed – anytime and anywhere.
In particular, the rise of “digital business,” which now encompasses outsourcers, partners, consultants, and offshore locations, combined with the activities of increasingly sophisticated hackers and identity thieves, puts more confidential information at greater risk than ever before.
Then there’s the economy. A significant number of people are leaving their current positions, either due to the recession or for better opportunities. As these employees exit, so too does corporate data. Just how much data may surprise you.
According to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute (“Data Loss Risks During Downsizing,” February 23, 2009), more than half of all employees who leave their jobs are stealing company data. Moreover, 79% of these respondents admit that their former employer didn’t permit them to leave with company data.
The study also reveals that companies are doing a poor job at preventing former employees from stealing data. A staggering 85% of companies did not review or perform an audit of the paper or electronic documents that employees are taking. If the companies did conduct a review, 45% of respondents say it was not complete and 29% say it was superficial. Additionally, 24% of respondents had access to corporate systems and data after they left the company, creating a real data security risk.
The study concludes that if companies had better data loss prevention policies and technologies, many instances of data theft could have been prevented.

An increased focus on DLP

The need to protect key information assets in such an environment has understandably increased the focus on Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions. While earlier DLP solutions were initially focused on preventing data loss via the network, the risk of data loss through mobile devices such as laptops and USB drives has stimulated a growing need for DLP solutions to prevent data loss via the endpoint. That’s hardly surprising, given that Symantec estimates four out of five companies have lost data through laptops, while Forrester Consulting concludes that more than half of all companies have lost data through removable media such as USB drives.
As a result, the latest generation of DLP solutions has emerged to address these problems. Specifically, these solutions help companies understand where their confidential data is located, where it’s going, how it’s being used, and even how to enforce protective policies.

Discover, monitor, and protect confidential data

Symantec Data Loss Prevention enables companies to discover, monitor, and protect confidential data wherever it’s stored or used. By measurably reducing risk, it gives organizations confidence to demonstrate compliance while protecting their customers, brand, and intellectual property.
  • Discover. As the volume of data continues to grow within an organization, data security teams may have little or no visibility into where confidential data is actually stored or who has access to that data. Symantec Data Loss Prevention discovers confidential data wherever it is stored. With Symantec Data Loss Prevention, companies can address key challenges around PCI, data inventory, and data classification in order to demonstrate regulatory compliance, reduce risk, and safeguard their brand and reputation.
  • Monitor. As organizations increasingly rely on high-speed networks and mobile computing to share and access information, data security teams may have little or no visibility into what confidential data is leaving the organization and how employees are using it on and off the corporate network. With Symantec Data Loss Prevention, organizations can monitor how confidential data is being used at the endpoint and where it is being sent over the network. Symantec ensures that employees can work productively in the office or at home, and organizations are aligned with corporate data loss policies.
  • Protect. It has become more difficult than ever for organizations to prevent the loss of sensitive data. As mentioned, yesterday’s security approaches were aimed at securing the network. Today’s approach is to focus on securing the data itself. With Symantec Data Loss Prevention, organizations gain visibility into policy violations to proactively secure data with automatic quarantine, relocation, and support for policy-based encryption. Symantec Data Loss Prevention enables active blocking at both the network and endpoint to prevent confidential data from inappropriately leaving the organization. Symantec ensures the highest level of risk reduction and automatically enforces compliance with data security policy.
Symantec Data Loss Prevention helps you automatically find and protect all the confidential data in your organization’s emails, files, databases, corporate portals, and endpoints. It identifies confidential data such as credit card numbers, design documents, and sensitive pricing information. You can also configure it to include other types of information that you consider top secret, whatever it may be.

Conclusion

If, as the recent Ponemon Institute study suggests, data loss during downsizing is inevitable, it is also preventable. Organizations can prevent employees from emailing sensitive content to personal Webmail accounts, copying it to a CD or DVD, or downloading it onto USB drives.
For its part, Gartner estimates that insiders are responsible for 70% of security incidents that incur losses. With the average cost of a single internal data breach estimated at $6.7 million, companies need to look beyond just protecting their network perimeters from external threats. It’s time to shift the focus to implementing DLP solutions that protect data wherever it is stored or used. Only then will companies be in a position to confidently manage and share their confidential data.

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