Aug 30, 2010 (07:08 AM EDT)
E-mail Causes Most Enterprise Data Loss

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8 Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, Local Pain
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Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, Local Pain
Although e-mail continues to be the primary source of data-loss risk at enterprises, the number of data-loss events associated with social media tools -- and related disciplinary actions -- continues to grow, a new study found.

In fact, 35% of large enterprises have investigated a leak of confidential, sensitive, or proprietary data via e-mail in the past year, according to a study of 261 large businesses by Osterman Research for Proofpoint. And 25% of the U.S. companies surveyed had looked into the exposure of such information via a blog or message board, compared with 18% in 2009, the study found.

One-fifth of businesses looked into similar postings on a social networking site such as Facebook or LinkedIn, according to the report. Last year, 17% of enterprises took this step, the study found. In addition, 18% of U.S. enterprises investigated postings on media-sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, while 17% looked into data exposure on SMS text or web-based short message systems such as Twitter, according to Proofpoint.

In many cases, companies responded to these investigations with disciplinary actions against an employee for violating corporate policy. For example, 24% of companies disciplined an employee for violating blog or message board policies, and 11% terminated an employee for this violation, the study found. One-fifth disciplined an employee for using a social networking site to violate company policies, and 7% took the step of firing an employee, according to the report. In addition, 21% of businesses polled disciplined an employee for exposing data via a media-sharing site, and 9% of companies let an employee go because of these actions, the survey said.

"Enterprise IT professionals are faced with trying to minimize data loss risks across an ever-growing number of channels. And for every high-profile data loss event you see in the mainstream media, there are many more that you never hear about. Employees should also be aware of these concerns, the policies their employers have put around electronic communications, and the serious consequences for violating those policies," said Keith Crosley, director of market development at Proofpoint.