ANZ business data protection is more reactive, less mature than most countries

Australian companies are world's most likely to deploy data loss prevention tools after they're breached, not before

Businesses in Australia and New Zealand are reporting fewer data loss incidents per day overall than comparable businesses in other countries but email monitoring and blocking is generating incidents at twice the global average, according to new Intel Security research that also found a threat landscape exploding with new ransomware and mobile malware.

Conducted amongst 1000 IT decision makers worldwide – including 350 in Australia – the company's McAfee Labs Threat Report, September 2016 highlighted a considerable lack of preparedness for information theft in the manufacturing and healthcare industries.

ANZ companies were the world's most likely be using data loss prevention (DLP) tools in a surveillance rather than an enforcement mode, with 59 percent of respondents using the tools in this way; this correlated with a relatively low DLP maturity score of 3.65, compared with the global average of 4.10.

Monitoring was turning up an average of 17 data loss incidents per day in Australia, compared with the global average of 20. When blocking and monitoring of suspicious email was put in place, that figure increased significantly, with 43 incidents per day – suggesting that sensitive files are being emailed outside the company at a rate well ahead of global averages.

"The gap between data loss and breach discovery is getting larger,” Intel Security APAC vice president Daryush Ashjari said in a statement. “Organisations who haven't traditionally been the target of cyber attacks now need to be aware of the risks as cybercriminals find new ways to exploit businesses.”

The results suggested that cloud storage services represented a major blind spot in data protection, with nearly 60 percent saying they had deployed cloud-based applications but only 12 percent saying they had some sort of visibility into data activity in the cloud. Intel Security's analysis suggested that the gap could be due to “incorrect assumptions about the security services offered by cloud providers, [with business users] confusing cloud security defences with data protection.”

Email was the most frequently monitored vector for data exchange, monitored by 68 percent of respondents, with sharing of or access to employee personally identifiable information (PII) (56 percent), company financial data (56 percent), customer PII (53 percent), personal credit information (48 percent), and confidential company intellectual property (45 percent) also carefully monitored.

Some 45 percent of ANZ respondents said the commencement of new projects had caused spikes in the average number of incidents recorded per day, with internal organisation (44 percent) and mergers & acquisitions (42 percent) also linked to increases in security incidents.

Despite these precautions, the figures also suggested that ANZ companies were often working on a reactive rather than proactive basis. Globally, 77 percent of respondents said they had implemented DLP to protect data but only 64 percent of ANZ respondents said the same. Fully 60 percent – the highest rate in the world – said they had implemented DLP as a direct result of a data loss incident.

The figures paint a bleak picture for data protection within ANZ businesses, especially given that the magnitude of the threat they face has never been bigger. Some 1.3m new ransomware samples were detected in the second quarter of this year, with one ransomware author collecting $US121m ($A161m) in payments alone. The quarter also saw 2m new mobile malware samples and an 11 percent surge in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

“The surges in ransomware to historic new heights in Q2 2016 come as a timely reminder to organisations to ensure the right practices and policies are in place to keep the business and its customers data secure at all times,” Ashjari warned. “It is befitting to highlight the importance of user awareness and corporates' responsibility to educate their uses and increase their awareness when it comes to ransomware."

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Tags mobile malwareANZDLPdata loss prevention (DLP)mcafee labsdata protectionransomwareIT decision makerscyber security

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