Survey: Enterprises Don't Know Sensitive Data Flow

Survey: Enterprises Don't Know Sensitive Data Flow
Survey: Enterprises Don't Know Sensitive Data Flow 

By Kelly Jackson Higgins
Senior Editor
Dark Reading
March 4, 2008

Most enterprises still dont know where their sensitive data resides, and 
less than half of those that do know are actually enforcing its 
protection, according to new research to be released next month by The 
451 Group.

Seventy-five percent dont know who their employees are talking to, says 
Nick Selby, director of research operations and research director of 
enterprise security for The 451 Group. But this is not an IT problem -- 
its a business problem.

The 451 Group survey [1], which will be published as part of its Mind 
the Data Gap report next month, found that only 37 percent of 
enterprises have determined where their data physically resides in the 
organization. Only 26 percent have established data-sensitivity 
classification schemes -- such as public, confidential, and regulated" 
-- to label their data, and over half of those respondents say 
enforcement of these data classifications is nonexistent in their 

Selby says of the around 320 IT decision-makers his firm surveyed, only 
22 percent of them had done any analysis on interdepartmental 
communication. We are finding that they dont know where the data is 
because they dont understand how they do business... They dont 
understand the processes, he says.

Those organizations that are on track with classifying their data either 
do business with the government or are regulated to label their datas 
sensitivity, Selby says.

And it appears enterprises are out of touch when it comes to just how 
data leaks in the real world, according to The 451 Group. While data 
leakage by email accounted for only about 0.5 percent of the incidents 
(there were two so far) reported to's database this year, 
some 38 percent of respondents to 451's survey said employees leaking 
information via email or USB device, for instance, was either somewhat 
or very likely. And 44 percent said employees stealing information this 
way was somewhat or very likely, according to the survey.

But The 451 Group says this disconnect may be more about organizations 
in general just not knowing their users are leaking data via email. "It 
is inconceivable to us that so few losses occurred by a channel like 
email," according to its latest blog entry.

Meanwhile, Selby says before organizations throw tools at the data 
leakage problem, they first need to have their senior business and IT 
people team up to analyze data volumes, traffic, and study which groups 
need to talk to which groups, etc.


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