Organizations unprepared for employee-caused security incidents

While employee-related security risks are the number-one concern for security professionals, organizations are not taking adequate steps to prevent negligent employee behavior, according to a new Ponemon Institute study.

The study, Managing Insider Risk Through Training & Culture, asked more than 600 individuals at companies that currently have a data protection and privacy training program to weigh in on the topic of negligent and malicious employee behaviors, as well as the consequences of poor security conduct and the effectiveness of training.

employee-caused security incidents

The study found that 55 percent of companies surveyed have already experienced a security incident due to a malicious or negligent employee. However, despite investment in employee training and other efforts to reduce careless behavior in the handling of sensitive and confidential information, the majority of companies do not believe that their employees are knowledgeable about the company’s security risks.

Alarmingly, concern around the issue of employee-caused security incidents is not necessarily making companies any more effective at addressing it. Sixty percent of companies surveyed believe that their employees are not knowledgeable or have no knowledge of the company’s security risks.

The study showed a lack of concern by C-suite executives. Only 35 percent of respondents say senior management believes it is a priority that employees are knowledgeable about how data security risks affect their organization. This illustrates a clear gap between companies’ awareness of the issues caused by employee negligence and their actions.

Companies are missing a valuable learning opportunity

  • Only 46 percent of surveyed companies make training mandatory for all employees.
  • When companies experience a data breach, they have a unique opportunity to re-engage employees around protecting company data. Unfortunately, 60 percent of companies do not require employees to retake security training courses following a data breach, missing a key opportunity to emphasize security best practices.

Employee training programs currently fall short

  • The effectiveness of training programs varies greatly, and many are not extensive enough to drive significant behavioral change. Only half of companies agree or strongly agree that current employee education programs actually reduce noncompliant behaviors.
  • Many training programs provide only basic information and are not delivered on a regular basis. Forty-three percent of companies provide only one basic course for all employees, and often these courses don’t cover a number of large risks that lead to data breaches.

Organizations need to foster a culture of security

  • The study found that companies are not currently implementing a number of simple incentives that could encourage positive security behaviors. Of the companies surveyed, 67 percent provide no incentives to employees for being proactive in protecting sensitive information or reporting potential issues.
  • Among those that do provide incentives, only 19 percent provide a financial reward and only 29 percent mention security in performance reviews. Furthermore, the study found that one-third of companies have no consequences if an employee is found to be negligent or responsible for causing a data breach.

Don't miss