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Employees are companies’ biggest data security risk

A consensus study commissioned by data security specialist HANDD Business Solutions (HANDD) has revealed that nearly a quarter of IT professionals believe that the behaviour of employees and their reactions to social engineering attacks – which can trick them into sharing user credentials and sensitive data – poses a big challenge to data security.

The survey of 304 IT professionals in the UK shows that 21 per cent of respondents say regulations, legislation and compliance will be one of the two greatest business challenges to impact data security. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is causing real concern among professionals in their bid to be compliant by the deadline, which is less than 12 months away. GDPR will not only raise the privacy bar for companies across the EU, but will also impose extra data protection burdens on them.

HANDD CEO and co-founder Ian Davin commented: “Companies must change their mindset and look at data, not as a fungible commodity, but as a valuable asset. Data is more valuable than a pot of gold, which puts companies in a challenging position as the stewards of that data. C-suite executives must understand the data protection challenges they face and implement a considered plan and methodical approach to protecting sensitive data.”

41 per cent of those surveyed assign the same level of security resources and spend for all company data, regardless of its importance. Analysing and documenting the characteristics of each data item is a vital part of its journey through an organisation. A robust data classification system will see all data tagged with markers defining useful attributes, such as sensitivity level or a retention requirement and ensuring that an organisation understands completely which data requires greater levels of protection.

“Employees are probably your biggest asset, yet they are also your weakest link, and so raising user awareness and improving security consciousness are hugely important for companies that want to drive a culture of security throughout their organisation,” commented Danny Maher, CTO at HANDD.