Enabling the Trusted Workforce

A balanced approach to managing people related risk

First published: February 2007

by Jon Collins and Dale Vile

While the spotlight of media attention often falls on external threats such as hackers, viruses, spyware and so on, it is well recognised in organisations that problems are far more likely to be caused by people working “on the inside,” potentially through malice but more likely due to foolishness or inadvertent error. Such risks need to be treated through a combination of technology deployment and policy implementation: while organisations are waking up to this, there is still some way to go to overcome past indifference and inactivity when presented with internal threats.

KEY POINTS

It is well understood that the internal threat is as prominent as the external one
According to 715 senior IT managers participating in a recent study conducted across Europe and the Middle East, security breaches or exposures from employees acting carelessly or deliberately are as much of a concern as external attack from hacking, viruses, spyware and so on. Around 80% of organisations rate the prominence of the threat in this area as significant. Furthermore, around 40% expect the challenges to persist, with a similar number expecting it to rise.

Distribution and fragmentation of data and systems create particular challenges
Almost three quarters of organisations point to the proliferation of confidential information across systems and locations as representing a particular challenge. Distribution and in many cases replication of data across different applications, desktops, servers and locations creates more opportunities for mistakes to occur and for information to end up falling into the wrong hands.

The trend towards mobile working is creating yet more challenges
Over half of organisations now regard the mobile working related security risks as significant and rising at the same level as employee related risks in general. Of particular concern is the increasing degree to which sensitive information is stored on mobile equipment and taken outside of the organisation in an unprotected manner. As part of this almost 70% of organisations highlight the potential threat to information security from USB memory sticks and other portable storage devices.

Some important specific solutions are on the investment agenda
While 30% of organisations have advanced authentication and single sign-on solutions in place, only 16% say identity and access management is fully taken care of. Most of the rest (over 50% in each case) are looking to either extend their investment in such management and automation solutions or invest for the first time.

But technology must be blended with the right policy and process
While organisations are already looking at technology to help manage access to systems and information in a more coordinated and efficient manner, the research suggests that appropriate solutions will only be effective if implemented within the right operational framework. While 62%, for example, say security infrastructure limitations have stood in the way of them evolving their working practices, 68% point to policy and process related challenges as an inhibitor to progress. This includes user training which is critical to protecting against the employee related risk.

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