Report warns of growing cybersecurity threat to organisations by their own staff

An overwhelming majority of employees are deliberately seeking out information they are not permitted to access, exposing a major cybersecurity problem among today’s workforce, claims new research published by One Identity. The survey, conducted by Dimensional Research, polled more than 900 IT security professionals on trends and challenges related to managing employee access to corporate data. Among key findings, a remarkable 92 percent of respondents report that employees at their organisations try to access information that is not necessary for their day-to-day work – with nearly one in four (23 percent) admitting this behaviour happens frequently. Most alarmingly, the report indicates that IT security professionals themselves are among the worst offenders of corporate data snooping. One in three respondents admit to having accessed sensitive information that is not necessary for their day-to-day work.

The research also suggests that the smaller the company, the bigger the snoop: Thirty-eight percent of IT security professionals at companies with 500-2,000 employees admit to looking for or accessing sensitive performance data, versus 29 percent of professionals at companies with more than 5,000 employees.

“While insider threats tend to be non-malicious in intent, our research depicts a widespread, intrusive meddling from employees when it comes to information that falls outside their responsibility – and it could be that meddling that ends up putting their employers in hot water,” said John Milburn, president and general manager of One Identity.

Other findings related to IT security professionals’ shocking snooping behaviour include:

  • Company performance information is a hot commodity: More than one in three (36 percent) of IT pros admit to looking for or accessing sensitive information about their company’s performance, apart from what is required to do for their job.
  • IT security executives are the guiltiest by level: Seventy-one percent of executives admit to seeking out extraneous information, compared to 56 percent of non-manager-level IT security team members. Additionally, 45 percent of executives admit to snooping for or accessing sensitive company performance information specifically, compared to just 17 percent of non-manager team members.
  • Workers in technology companies most likely to go on a sensitive information hunt: Forty-four percent of respondents working for technology companies admit to searching for sensitive company performance information, compared to 36 percent in financial services, 31 percent in manufacturing, and just 21 percent in healthcare.

Added John Milburn: “Without proper governance of access permissions and rights, organizations give employees free reign to move about the enterprise and access sensitive information like financial performance data, confidential customer documentation, or a CEO’s personal files.

“If that information winds up in the wrong hands, corporate data loss, customer data exposure or compliance violations are possible risks that could result in irreversible damage to the business’s reputation or financial standing.”

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