Data security provider Lepide has released a report detailing what is said is an alarming trend in data security: Most enterprises are unaware of what state it’s in. Pulling from hundreds of risk analyses performed for its clients, Lepide found a data security environment that is continuing several years of negative trends. “All too often organizations have struggled to determine where their sensitive data is, who has access to it and what their users are doing with it,” said Aidan Simister, CEO of Lepide.

Lepide called attention to five key problems areas it noticed. Thankfully, the company also has recommendations on how to improve in those common weak spots.

SEE: Cybersecurity: Let’s get tactical (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Enterprises lack visibility on what data is being created, where it resides, and who has access to it.

Some 57% of organizations are creating over 6,500 files containing sensitive data every day. That’s a lot of data, and with it come a lot of complications.

As you may guess, with that much data being created outdated, or “stale,” data can become a problem, and it is for 91% of organizations that have over 1,000 pieces of stale data in their systems.

There’s also the problem of where that data resides and who can get to it, and the numbers aren’t reassuring there either. Fifty-seven percent of organizations have at least two open shares, the average organization is creating over 4,000 copies of sensitive files a day, and 71% of organizations have at least 1,000 inactive users who could still be gaining access to sensitive systems.

2. There are too many privileged users

It’s easy to get carried away granting permissions to users so that they can get their jobs done without trouble, but that could be contributing to this serious problem.

The average enterprise (it’s unknown how many people Lepide counts as “average”) has around 66 privileged users, and those users are on average making two Active Directory changes and three Exchange Server modifications per day.

Think about the number of people that need administrative access or elevated permissions in your organization: There probably isn’t more than 60 of them.

3. Data management often not in compliance with government standards

Many organizations were found to be in violation of laws like GDPR, HIPAA, PCI, and CCPA because of the above-mentioned stale data statistics and poor user permission management.

Stale data can create a serious problem not only because additional copies of data increases attack exposure, but also because of the harm it can do to analytics and business decision making. If old data is used it could lead to financial loss, security compromise, or other problems.

4. Inactive users create a larger attack surface

The report found 71% of organizations have over 1,000 inactive users, and that means an additional 29% could have nearly that many.

Inactive user accounts that aren’t monitored, don’t have their passwords updated, or belong to former employees and default users are ripe attack vectors.

5. Too many users have non-expiring passwords.

The report found that 31% of enterprises had over 1,000 accounts with passwords that never expire.

If users are duplicating passwords used for personal accounts, and those accounts are compromised, it’s a short step to an attacker gaining access to your organization’s network.

How to fix your data security shortcomings

Whether or not those statistics sound familiar is unimportant: All organizations can do a better job at securing their data. Lepide makes the following recommendations to organizations looking to do so:

  1. Reduce attack surfaces: Eliminate unnecessary account privileges, close out inactive users, and eliminate duplicate data that resides in cached files and backups.

  2. Control data access: Audit who has access to what data, determine whether they need that access, and block access to those who don’t absolutely have to have it.

  3. Categorized risks: Sort security risks into categories and rank them in order of importance to increase visibility and improve readiness.

  4. Integrate solutions: Siloed software means data could be being duplicated, misplaced, or left unsecure. If you can find a vendor that offers all the software you need in one package it’s a good idea to consider a move.

  5. Understand your data environment: Create a map of the environment your data lives in, like what users can do what, where data is created, what it contains and is used for, how it moves from user to user, etc. Knowing what is going on can help eliminate weaknesses.

Image: iStockphoto/marchmeena29

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