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Number of employees who would steal data increases significantly

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Almost three-quarters of employees would steal company secrets if they were fired and had clear plans to take something with them if they left.

A survey of more than 1,000 UK employees by Imperva found that 70 per cent of respondents had clear plans to take something with them upon actually leaving their job. The most popular data to take was intellectual property (27 per cent) or customer records (17 per cent).

More than half also claimed to have personal ownership of the data already, with 59 per cent having it in case they were about to change jobs and 53 per cent in case they were about to be dismissed. The vast majority (85 per cent) carry corporate data in their home computers or on mobile devices.

Amichai Shulman, CTO of Imperva, said: “This survey refutes the conventional wisdom that insiders are corporate spies or revenge-seeking employees. It seems most employees have no deliberate intention to cause the company any damage. Rather, this survey indicates that most individuals leaving their jobs suddenly believe that they had rightful ownership to that data just by virtue of their corporate tenure.”

A similar survey was carried out a year ago by Cyber-Ark, which found that 48 per cent of respondents admitted that they would take company information with them if they were fired tomorrow and 39 per cent would download company/competitive information if they found that their job was at risk.

Commenting on this year's findings, Mark Fullbrook, UK director of Cyber-Ark, said: “There are two areas here, it is difficult to give people granulated privileges as you either make people an administrator or not. You can give them a password and then they can do whatever they want.

“Also, IT teams are overstretched and we find that they are the first to be attacked when it comes to cost-cutting and this leads to people doing more with less.

“There is an element of people who want to access data wherever they are, they have a BlackBerry or an iPhone and I have got no issue with that. The issue is control and helping people who want to do their job more flexibly, but ensuring that they remain productive but are secure as they are dealing with sensitive information.”

This year's survey also found that employees tend to extract information, which is beyond their need to know, and enterprises have practically no controls in place to prevent excessive privilege access. It found that 54 per cent of the respondents have accessed data outside their explicit role permissions, while 73 per cent replied that existing access control mechanisms around this data are very easy to bypass.

Commenting on that statistic, Fullbrook said: “We see that all of the time, you need to control access because what is often in place is easy to circumnavigate.”

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