Loose lips are sinking ships as employees leak secret data

2 Nov 2009

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One in five (19pc) Irish businesses have experienced employees leaking confidential information from inside their business, new research on how businesses treat confidential information suggests.

The research, commissioned by Shred-it and Filestores, members of the DMG Group, surveyed legal, financial and professional services sectors and the public sector in Ireland.

The majority (79pc) of Irish businesses expressed confidence that their current approach to document storage was secure. Yet, almost one-fifth (17pc) of Irish businesses have lost sensitive and confidential information, including paper and electronic files, USB keys and laptops in the past three years.

Risk during recession

“Generally, in times of economic recession when companies are faced with redundancies, there is a heightened risk of disaffected employees leaking sensitive business information,” said Paul Kearns, general manager at Shred-it.

“Companies will be left exposed if they do not start adhering to best practice in protecting their business information from being lost or falling into the wrong hands,” Kearns added.

More than two-thirds of Irish businesses claimed they have official policies in place regarding destroying and storing sensitive information. However, nearly half (49pc) have never checked how third-party suppliers, such as legal and financial advisers, treat their confidential information.

Loss of data

Almost one-fifth (19pc) of financial institutions admit to losing sensitive data on numerous occasions over the past three years.

“We have all heard of the recent cases of banks losing customer information. These examples prove that loss of confidential information can affect any business and that the implications are costly, embarrassing and, most importantly, damaging to your business. Irish businesses need to wake up to the importance of protecting their information from being lost and stolen,” said Kearns.

State organisations face particular challenges in the area of protecting sensitive information. Nearly one-quarter (24pc) of state organisations admit to losing sensitive data on numerous occasions over the past three years. Meanwhile, more than half (58pc) of state organisations believe they could do more to protect themselves from sensitive data being stolen. 

Information protection

Almost half (44pc) of businesses admitted they should do more to protect their business from sensitive business information being stolen.

Nearly one-third (28pc) of Irish businesses have no policy in place regarding storing and destroying confidential files. Looking at specific sectors, 41pc of professional services companies and 37pc of law firms have no formal policy in place for destroying and storing files

The majority (70pc) of Irish businesses admit they could still do more to foster a paperless office environment.

More than one-third (35pc) of Irish businesses agree their filing systems are disorganised and need updating, meanwhile, almost half (47pc) of those surveyed admit filing takes up too much space in their office.

“Companies will be left exposed if they do not start
adhering to best practice in protecting their
business information from being lost
or falling into the wrong hands.”

– Paul Kearns, general manager at Shred-it

More than one-third of Irish businesses (35pc) say valuable time is wasted trying to locate files.

The research did uncover a growing awareness amongst business people of the need to protect confidential information, with 92pc of Irish business people claiming they are aware of their legal obligations to store business records.

In addition, with many businesses cutting costs in the current climate, 80pc of Irish companies didn’t cut their spending in this area, claiming they couldn’t afford the risk of exposing their data and their business to potential security risks.

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com