More redundancies and a growing black market for stolen information contribute to the problem says Overtis

Organisations have been warned to prepare themselves for a data loss deluge during the economic downturn.

Several drivers are responsible for the increase in data leakage. An increase in transient staff, higher staff turnover, more redundancies and a growing black market hungry for information are all contributing to the problem, said Overtis Systems.

A recent report from KPMG showed higher losses from August to November 2008 than the previous eight months and predicted a doubling of data loss incidents during 2009.

Jeremy Barker, executive director, Overtis Systems, said: ‘In effect, anyone with access to internal systems, organisational structure, processes and procedures or with trusted access to systems and networks now poses a threat and unless radical steps are taken, intellectual property will continue to be misappropriated at an alarming rate, share prices will suffer and economic confidence will be further eroded.’

Overtis issued the following advice to prevent data leakage:

Implement a strong employee joining and exit process – email and network access needs to be revoked quickly and mobile devices recovered when an employee leaves. New members of staff need only be given access to the resources they need to perform their role.

Educate staff – ensure data is only accessible to staff on a need-to-know basis or push data to relevant individuals

Avoid remedial action – Don’t seek to address a security breach with a point security product but take a systematic approach to the whole enterprise. Controls need to be in place between the user and the data not on the network or gateway.

Identify assets and information flows – Address potential pain points by mapping all of the intellectual property you have and modes of access.

Restrict the manipulation of data – Plan who needs access and whether they have the authorisation to print, change or export data over email, IM or to removable devices. It’s also now possible to apply restrictions to specific content within a document or by time and location.

Watch the gatekeepers – System administrators and privileged users should be subject to the same change management and critical server file integrity checks.

Don’t overlook the obvious – Do put in place procedures to prevent the export of data to USB sticks, MP3 players etc. Do scan outgoing email for confidential attachments. Do restrict copy and paste over Instant Messenger and other social networking media.

Use encryption – Where you do permit data export to mobile devices and removable media, ensure it is encrypted.

Use two-factor authentication – Don’t rely on passwords; they are often written down and are relatively simple to crack. Always combine a password with a secondary method of authentication. Sophisticated systems such as finger vein readers are simple and cannot be easily subverted.

Combine your security arsenal – While many organisations have biometric access systems, CCTV and even RFID, few have taken the logical step of joining these together with the IT security system. Integrating the physical with the virtual can provide the requisite evidence of a data breach, for example marrying a screenshot of a file being exported with CCTV footage of the perpetrator. Evidence can also be used to enhance staff productivity, by illuminating how data is used.