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Employees Share Confidential Data Despite Possible Job Loss

A survey by FileTrek reveals that 90 percent of the more than 2,600 adult Americans surveyed in January believe people share company confidential information with the outside world, and 72 percent of respondents dread being accused of doing so (it's their top fear).

Despite this, nearly half (48 percent) say a boss’s approval is a valid defense for sharing data. Also on the list of acceptable circumstances: needing to finish a late-night project at home, working on weekends or during vacation, when the information is about themselves, when the data can be returned without the boss’ knowledge, or to show others who promise confidentiality.  The file transfer medium of choice: 55 percent said they’d use a USB drive.

Opinions vary by age. For example, 68 percent of respondents aged 18-34 say it is permissible to remove files, but only half of those aged 55 and over feel that way. In fact, 86 percent of those older respondents say that taking confidential information is grounds for dismissal; the figure is 74 percent for the younger group. Only sexual harassment of a coworker and incompetence rated higher as a reason for termination.

I asked FileTrek CEO Dale Quayle what he believed was the root cause of the problem with employees' attitudes.  After all, employees know it could get them fired but they'd do it anyway if the boss said it's OK.

"I actually believe that many workers don't even realize that they are putting their employer’s confidential information at risk since many companies are not clear about their policies regarding corporate IP," Quayle said.. "Another root cause is simply the fact that modern technology has allowed employees to share electronic data quite easily. These innovations have increased productivity and collaboration, but it has also increased the risk of confidential information being leaked or traveling out in the wild.

"Employees are more concerned with the ability to be mobile and the freedom to access work documents on several devices than being motivated to protect sensitive data. I believe the solution is to provide businesses with a safe and secure system that enables employees with modern tools while protecting an organization's confidential data at the same time."

I asked Quayle what he thought the biggest mistakes enterprises make in trying to change the attitudes and company culture about file sharing and wondered what steps enterprises should take instead.

"The most common mistake is when an enterprise allows their employees to utilize numerous disparate file sharing services between departments, work groups, and within the company," Quayle pointed out. This creates tremendous data sprawl and it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. Many of our customers claim the key to successfully changing the culture regarding file sharing and ensuring security of corporate IP is to: first, define concise policies regarding document distribution and approved methods. Next, it is extremely important to educate their workforce as to the importance and reasoning behind the policies."

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted by Jim Powell on 03/20/2012 at 11:53 AM