SanDisk Corporation today announced the results of a new study demonstrating the risks of unsecured USB flash drive usage within enterprise organizations. A survey of both corporate end users and corporate IT managers, commissioned by SanDisk, revealed that IT executives are unaware of the extent to which unsecured flash drives are brought into their organizations: 77 percent of corporate end users surveyed have used personal flash drives for work-related purposes. However, when asked to estimate what percentage of the workforce uses personal flash drives, corporate IT respondents said only 35 percent.
Users revealed the data files most likely to be copied to a personal flash drives include customer records (25 percent), financial information (17 percent), business plans (15 percent), employee records (13 percent), marketing plans (13 percent), intellectual property (6 percent), and source code (6 percent).
Survey data indicated the portability of USB flash drives represents a significant risk of data loss. Approximately one in ten (12 percent) of corporate end users reported finding a flash drive in a public place. Additionally, when asked to pick the three most likely actions they would take if they found a flash drive in a public place, 55 percent indicated they would view the data.
“Most CIOs are aware that data leaks can result in identity theft, compromise of intellectual property, and loss of trade secrets, as well as significant PR and financial damage to organizations,” said Gil Mildworth, Senior Director of Marketing for SanDisk’s Enterprise Division. “Our survey demonstrates that, while there is some awareness of potential risks involved with unsecured USB flash drives, corporate IT execs need more effective policies, education, and technology solutions in order to mitigate the risks. Only a top-down effort involving intelligent device management, data monitoring, and centralized policy enforcement will sufficiently reduce risks, while allowing organizations to reap the productivity benefits of enhanced mobility.”
Corporate Policies Largely Reactive; Knowledge Varies
Survey results demonstrated that while some organizations have taken steps to implement policies and educate users about proper USB flash drive usage, their actions are primarily reactive. According to IT respondents, more than two-thirds (67 percent) are implementing or have implemented policies as a result of a data or security breach in their organization. Additionally, only slightly more than half (52 percent) of all of IT respondents have implemented an endpoint security solution.
Awareness of corporate USB flash drive usage policies is varied among respondents. Twenty-three percent of end users are either not familiar at all with their organization’s policies regarding flash drive usage, or are aware that they exist but aren’t familiar with specific details.
At the same time, almost half (44 percent) of end users revealed that, to their knowledge, their organization does not have a policy that forbids copying corporate data on personal USB flash drives. Another 16 percent were not aware of an existing policy, while 40 percent reported their company does have a policy forbidding corporate data on personal flash drives.
IT manager responses were consistent with end users. Twenty-one percent described their employees’ understanding of policies as only limited, while 33 percent were described as having moderate understanding, 28 percent reported as having good understanding, and 19 percent reported as having complete understanding. When asked about training, IT respondents reported that employees are trained either once per year on policies around USB flash drive usage (33 percent); that they are trained more than once per year (24 percent); that employees receive training only once when hired (22 percent); that they are trained only on an as-needed basis (17 percent); and that they never train employees (3 percent).
More Education Required to Mitigate Risk, Potential Costs
Some 41 percent of corporate IT managers report they are at least somewhat uncomfortable with the level of USB flash drive usage in their organization, revealing a significant level of potential risk. Corporate end users validated their concerns by reporting that one out of every five have little to no awareness about the risks involved with transporting corporate data on flash drives (21 percent), revealing a significant potential for data loss.
About SanDisk’s USB Flash Drive Study
SanDisk’s report on USB flash drive usage in the enterprise was a result of phone surveys, conducted in the U.S. in March 2008 by Applied Research-West for SanDisk, of both corporate end users and corporate IT managers. The goal of the surveys was to learn more about flash drive usage in the enterprise, as well as the awareness of potential risks involved with transporting corporate data on personal flash drives.
SanDisk, a global leader in USB flash drives, is driving the convergence of secure portable storage, identity management and virtualization through its Enterprise Division to create a comprehensive solution for mobile professionals in enterprises and government agencies. Today, SanDisk’s Enterprise Division offers solutions for securely storing and managing enterprise data, within and outside the enterprise environment. With the upcoming introduction of virtualization and identity and management capabilities, SanDisk expects to allow IT managers to boost employee productivity by mobilizing the corporate computing environment through flexible, secure solutions that also reduce total cost of ownership.