41% of IT pros admit to snooping on confidential information

The results of a Cyber-Ark global survey show that 35 percent of respondents believe their company’s highly-sensitive information has been handed over to competitors. Thirty-seven percent of the IT professionals surveyed cited ex-employees as the most likely source of this abuse of trust.

While perhaps not surprising that disgruntled workers top the list, it’s noteworthy that 28 percent suspected “human error” as the next most likely cause, followed by falling victim to an external hack or loss of a mobile device/laptop, each at 10 percent. The most popular information shared with competitors was the customer database (26 percent) and R&D plans (13 percent).

There was little year-over-year change in the number of respondents who suspected the loss of intellectual property to a competitor, indicating that more needs to be done to protect companies’ most valued assets.

Additionally, to address vulnerabilities related to human error that could expose a proprietary database or financial information, organizations must employ additional layers of control such as the ability to grant privileges to sensitive data and systems on-demand. This limits “innocent” mistakes by allowing access to information only when users need it to perform a particular task or query.

The research also confirmed that snooping continues to rise within organizations both in the UK and the US. Forty-one percent of respondents confessed to abusing administrative passwords to snoop on sensitive or confidential information – an increase from 33 percent in both 2008 and 2009. When examining the information that people were willing to circumvent the rules to access, US respondents targeted the customer database first (38 percent versus 16 percent in the UK) with HR records most alluring to UK respondents (30 percent versus 28 percent in the US).

Despite the rise, there was also the admission that organizations are trying to better curb snooping and are installing stronger controls to prevent these incidents. Based on this year’s survey, 61 percent responded they could circumvent those controls – a decrease from 77 percent in 2009. Additionally, 88 percent of IT professionals believe their use of these privileged accounts should be monitored, however only 70 percent of organizations actually attempt to do so – with one-third turning a blind eye to what’s happening within their networks and therefore failing to meet regulatory and compliance requirements.

Insider sabotage, unfortunately and rather disconcertingly, has increased from 20 percent last year to 27 percent this year.

The survey found that 67 percent of respondents admitted having accessed information that was not relevant to their role. When asked what department was more likely to snoop and look at confidential information, more than half (54 percent) identified the IT department, likely a natural choice given the group’s power and broad responsibility for managing multiple systems across the organization. Of note, this is an up-tick compared to the 35 percent who identified the IT department as likely suspects in 2009, a number that had decreased from 47 percent in 2008. Respondents identified Human Resources the next curious at 11 percent, followed by administrative assistants.

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