Managers beware: IT holds the keys to the kingdom

While the world is distracted with the continuing reports of phone hacking practices and other corporate data breaches, it is revealed that hundreds of organisations are now vulnerable to internal threats.

According to a survey released today, 42 percent of IT staff can get unauthorised access to their organisation’s most sensitive information – including the CEO’s private documents. The failing is blamed on management’s naivety when it comes to understanding just how much privileged access their IT departments actually have.

39 percent of the technology professionals interviewed in this study confirmed that that their senior management does not have the faintest idea what IT can and cannot access. And, a staggering 78 percent admitted they could walk out the office tomorrow taking highly sensitive information with them.

However, perhaps the most alarming revelation is that a third of respondents say they’d still be able to access sensitive information long after leaving the company – as the result of lapses in the organisation’s security practices.

Companies should wake up to the fact that IT holds the keys to the kingdom. Nothing is secret or private unless you establish systems and procedures to lock down data from prying eyes and, according to our study, most organisations don’t. In the good old days the most sensitive data was locked away in a filing cabinet with just one or two trusted key holders.

Today, it’s locked away in a virtual filing cabinet, but the problem is most companies have no idea just how many people have keys to this cabinet. What’s clear from this survey is that management just doesn’t understand the privileges their IT staff have to the most sensitive data.

Even the bosses’ documents can be read by 42 percent of IT personnel and, if these guys can’t be trusted – which in some cases they can’t – the directors shouldn’t be surprised when their data gets leaked or exploited.

A third of UK IT workers and 22 percent of US IT workers are worried about their jobs

The survey, amongst nearly 500 IT workers in the US and UK, was commissioned to unearth sentiment towards “ethics in the workplace”. It found that there was a strong correlation between job security and the propensity to steal sensitive data.

Nearly a third of people – 31 percent – who were fearful of losing their jobs admitted that they would take sensitive data with them to their next role, compared to just 18 percent of those who felt their jobs were secure.

It is worth noting that the smaller the company, the higher the percentage of people who were insecure about the stability of their employment. 31 percent of IT professionals working in companies with less than 1,000 employees replied affirmatively to being worried about the stability of their employment, versus 20 percent of respondents at companies with more than 1,000 employees.

When comparing the two countries, more IT professionals in the UK say they could take sensitive information away with them to their next job with 85 percent admitting it would be easy compared with 76 percent of their US counterparts.

What drives snooping?

15 percent of UK IT professionals, compared with just nine percent of US IT professionals, admitted they’d use their admin rights to snoop around the network in an effort to sneak a peak at sensitive data – such as personnel records to try and find out if their job, or a colleague’s job, was at risk.

Philip Lieberman, the founder and president of Lieberman Software, has more than 30 years of experience in the software industry. In addition to his proficiency as a software engineer, Philip is an astute entrepreneur able to perceive shortcomings in existing products on the market, and fill those gaps with innovative solutions. He developed the first products for the privileged identity management space, and continues to introduce new solutions to resolve the security threat of privileged account credentials. Philip has published numerous books and articles on computer science, has taught at UCLA, and has authored many computer science courses for Learning Tree International. Philip has a B.A. from San Francisco State University.