Data Privacy and Security

Workplace Data Theft in 2013 - What Are the Trends?

The use of mobile devices – laptops, tablets and smartphones – is common practice in many businesses as the demand for digital and mobile work increases. However, it is easy to overlook that these devices contain sensitive information and, if stolen or lost, have the capacity to cause grave consequences for companies. Businesses are now realising the value of this data and the results of our recent Endpoint Security Report reveal some interesting trends around business endpoint security, and the risks that businesses are facing.

As a background to our data theft trends, our report found the UK to be the fourth from the top when it comes to global device theft hotspots, following the USA, Australia and Canada. Within EMEA, London was ranked the top city for thefts.

What’s most interesting about our report is that the theft circuit has gone global, with stolen devices being reported and recovered in various new and exotic locations ranging from the Cayman Islands, Mongolia and Gambia to Vietnam. This demonstrates the unlimited device theft geographical boundaries and shows just how easy it is for sensitive information to travel thousands of miles.

Not only are devices ending up in various parts of the world, they are also being stolen from a mixture of private and public locations. For example, offices topped the top sixteen locations in EMEA for theft, increasing from third place last year. From the cases analysed, this suggests the increasing issue of ‘office creepers’ that are swiping devices across the globe. Continuing to top the risk charts, further theft locations included automobiles, residential property, public schools and public transport; all of which had been present in the top five in last year’s report. IT security must look beyond hacking attacks and malware; business devices can be stolen from areas that may be considered secure such as at home or the car, leaving corporate data vulnerable. Businesses therefore need to be able to track stolen devices and the data they contain from any location.

As businesses digitise, data, and the risk it poses to businesses, is playing a much more significant role. As a result, our report found that remote file retrieval is on the up, with an increase of 135% on last year. This indicates that businesses are now much more concerned with regaining and accessing sensitive information if a device should be stolen or lost. As well as retrieval, there is also more stress put on eliminating the data completely; we found that remote data deletes increased in this year’s report by 34% on the previous year.

With mounting external pressures, businesses are now doing all they can to avoid compromising sensitive information and put little importance on regaining the device itself. The Information Commissioner’s Office raised the bar for businesses to adhere to data security regulations by introducing a maximum fine of £500,000 for a security breach. Such fines have the potential to cripple a company and as the cost of the endpoint continues to decrease, enterprise IT departments care less about recovering the hardware and instead are focused on protecting the corporate data contained within them.  Ultimately, data security is about avoiding sensitive information falling into the wrong hands and in turn protecting the business’s reputation and upholding its accountability.

Fundamentally, at the centre of this debate is the value of data. While businesses can replace a stolen device, missing and compromised data is lost for good – and often at the peril of the company’s reputation. With companies increasingly digitising the way they work and operate and employees constantly connected from often multiple locations, sensitive data is at the mercy of numerous threats.

If this report teaches us anything it is that preparing properly is really the best way to secure the data of the increasing array of mobile endpoints being used in businesses. From SMEs to large corporations, when it comes to working on the move and outside of the office, it’s better to find ways to securely enable your employees to work efficiently. By having a better grasp of the devices within your organisation and understanding how your employees want to use them, you can use technology platforms to grant you the visibility and ability to push certain applications. This can be done directly to devices, safe in the knowledge that you’re in control of how they’re used. When you get it right, it’s as simple as ‘track, manage and secure’ for the devices and information, within and outside of your organisation.


Stephen Midgley is Vice President of Global Marketing at Absolute Software


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