Survey: Security policies neglect off-network devices

Survey: Security policies neglect off-network devices according to a recent survey

A majority of companies put confidential data at risk every day when equipment such as servers, desktops, laptops and portable storage devices leave the confines of their network, according to a recent survey of 735 IT security practitioners.

The survey, conducted by Ponemon Institute and commissioned by Redemtech, an IT asset management and recovery services vendor, shows that the vast majority of data breaches reported today involve unprotected information on devices that go off the network at one time or another for relocation, repair or disposal. The findings, Ponemon says, should compel IT security managers to ramp up their off-network security policies and practices to the same level of their security practices for devices on the network.

"Organizations have experienced the theft or loss of confidential data when it has been off-network. The practices and procedures of protecting data off-network is, therefore, as much an issue as protecting data when it is on-network," the Ponemon report "The Insecurity of Off-Network Security" reads. "Both on- and off-network security should be important for all organizations."

The survey found that close to three-fourths of corporations experienced the loss or theft of a "data-bearing asset" in the past 24 months. Of those, 42 percent involved the loss of sensitive or confidential data. For 68 percent, those devices were laptop computers; for another 67 percent data breaches occurred on PDAs; and for about 60 percent confidential information was compromised when USB flash drives were lost or stolen. Even larger devices such as servers and desktops were cited by 39 percent and 29 percent, respectively, of survey respondents as the cause of data loss in the past two years. Other off-network devices involved in a data breach included backup media for 29 percent of those polled, zip drives and copying machines for 13 percent each, external storage devices for 11 percent, routes for 9 percent, and printers and fax machines for 4 percent of survey respondents.

Yet despite the many reported losses on off-network equipment, more than 60 percent of survey respondents said that their organizations place more importance on on-network security issues. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said their organizations have data-risk problems, which Ponemon described as "an abundance of unprotected sensitive or confidential information residing on off-network data-bearing assets." And another 62 percent of survey respondents reported that they "believe that off-network controls are not rigorously managed."

"Our research shows that, while more companies recognize the risk off-network data poses, few seems to have a grasp on how to manage the many challenges off-network data presents to maintaining a strong data security program, and many do not even have a policy to address the situation," said Larry Ponemon, found and chairman of the Ponemon Institute, in a press release. Ponemon and Robert Houghton, president of Redemtech, are scheduled to discuss the study findings at Harvard University's Privacy Symposium Wednesday.

The frequency of loss data from laptops and other devices is in part due to a lack of policies dictating how to treat critical data on devices that could leave the network, the study says. About 60 percent of survey respondents said they lack the resources to implement proper policies and put controls on off-network devices. About 40 percent of survey respondents said between 5 percent and 10 percent of their IT security budget is earmarked for off-network security activities, and 34 percent said they can use between 1 percent and 5 percent on such activities.

"The proof of senior managements' commitment to off-network security activities is budget allocation. 89 percent of respondents report that off-network security activities represent no more than 10 percent of earmarked IT security spending," the report reads. "If off-network security threats represent about half of all data breaches, a 10 percent or less budget allocation suggests inadequate focus, attention or commitment."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Denise Dubie

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?