Study: Data theft not an issue for managers

Small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) are failing to acknowledge and prevent data theft, new research shows.

The study, conducted by security software firm Prefix IT, sought the views of 1000 UK workers and found that half of SME managers say preventing data theft is not ‘even on the radar', with 29 per cent of all other managers saying the issue is not recognised at board level.

The report also revealed that workers leaving the company posed the biggest threat to security, with 65 per cent admitting considering taking data, such as sales leads, database information, business contacts and sensitive documents, and nearly two thirds admitting to past stealing. This number rose to nearly three quarters of those surveyed in the 45-54 age group. Overall 36 per cent revealed they might download company data to help in a new job.

However, only 7 per cent of managers surveyed believe their organisation has been affected by data theft. But, nearly a third of managers said that defending against data theft is a ‘key priority for the business'. This number dropped to 22 per cent for small SMEs (51-250 workers) and 28 per cent for medium-sized SMEs (251-500 employees).

Graeme Pitts-Drake, CEO of Prefix IT, said: "Whilst trust in staff is laudable, it is professionally negligent not to protect company assets appropriately through policy and technical means. Failing to communicate with staff about unacceptable activities is tantamount to endorsing theft."

According to Pitts-Drake, despite the limited resources available to SMEs, this is something they should be concerned about. "Whether it is a large or small organisation, data theft is a massive problem," he said.

"It is happening but managers don't realise it is happening - they are burying their heads in the sand. Smaller businesses have more of a family mentality and a culture of trust, but data theft is going on around them and they should be very worried," he added.

In an earlier study, conducted in September, 78 per cent of the workforce surveyed said they owned a personal device capable of downloading and storing data. Moreover, it found that 30 per cent of workers believe company information is rightfully theirs to take.

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