Security Survey Reveals Exiting Employees Have The Power

Exercise extreme caution when it comes to dismissing employees with knowledge of your IT systems – that’s the stark warning from privileged identity management specialist company Cyber-Ark Software. Its annual survey around “Trust, Security & Passwords” focused on 300 IT security professionals and revealed that 88 percent of IT administrators, if laid off tomorrow, would take valuable and sensitive company information with them. The target information includes the CEO’s passwords, the customer database, R & D plans, financial reports, M & A plans, and most importantly the company’s list of privileged passwords. Only 12 percent revealed that they would plan to leave empty handed.

The privileged password list, in particular, provides the keys to unlock access to every piece of information that’s on the network. Of the 88 percent that said they would take valuable information with them, one third of devious IT administrators would take the privilege password list which would give them access to all the other sensitive and valuable documents and information such as financial reports, accounts, and HR records.

“Most company directors are blissfully unaware of the administrative or privileged passwords that their IT staff has access to, which allows them to see everything that is going on within the company. These privileged identities, which lie on hundreds of servers and applications, very rarely get changed as it’s often considered too much hassle. When people leave the organization, they can often still access the network using these passwords to acquire highly sensitive data,” says Udi Mokady, president and CEO of Cyber-Ark. “Our advice is to secure these privileged passwords and identities, and routinely change and manage them so that if an employee’s contract is terminated, whether voluntary or not, they can’t maliciously wreak havoc inside the network or vindictively steal data for competitive or financial gain.”

Intellectual property and industrial espionage is a real problem

Interestingly, one third of companies revealed that they believe industrial espionage and data leakage is rife, with data being leaked out of their companies and going to their competitors or criminals, usually via powerful high gigabyte mobile devices such as USB sticks, iPods, BlackBerrys and laptops – or sent over email. A quarter of companies also admitted to suffering from internal sabotage and/or cases of IT security fraud happening in their workplace – which shows just how prevalent IT security breaches are within most companies.

Sloppy habits when exchanging privileged and sensitive information

The survey shows that IT security is a very genuine problem for most companies, and additionally, those responsible for securing the systems are often very sloppy when it comes to basic “good housekeeping”. According to the survey, IT administrators who are often responsible for security don’t exchange or send information securely, with 35 percent choosing to send sensitive or highly-confidential information via email. Furthermore, 35 percent of those surveyed use couriers to transport sensitive data- a system only marginally safe when the information is backed up and encrypted. Astonishingly, four percent of the sample size actually uses the postal system to send sensitive information!

A third of the most powerful passwords are still being put on post-it notes!

In spite of the billions that are currently spent on security systems to make them safe and secure, it is very hard to instill good working practices, even amongst the very people who are responsible for setting IT security standards in their own companies. One third of IT administrators surveyed admit to having written down privileged passwords on a post-it note.

A third of IT staff snoop at confidential data

The survey also found that one third of IT staff admitted to snooping around the network, looking at highly confidential information, such as salary details, M & A plans, people’s personal emails, board meeting minutes and other personal information that they were not privy to. They did this by using their privileged rights and administrative passwords to access information that is confidential or sensitive.

“You can install the best security systems in the world, but if your staff does not respect the information they are entrusted with, then the information will most definitely go astray – just as the findings of this survey have illustrated,” added Mokady. “That’s why we recommend companies secure their privileged identities and sensitive information in a digital vault – only giving individuals access to the information they actually need, when they need it, while also keeping a log of who has accessed what and when.”

For more information about this survey or to interview Cyber-Ark on its findings contact Shannon Palmer at 978-474-1900 or email cyber-

About Cyber-Ark

Cyber-Ark(R) Software is a leading provider of Privileged Identity Management (PIM) solutions for securing privileged user accounts and highly-sensitive information across the enterprise. Long recognized as an industry innovator for its patented Vaulting Technology(R), Cyber-Ark’s digital vault products include: The Enterprise Password Vault(R) for the secure management of administrative, application and privileged user passwords; the Inter-Business Vault(R), a secure infrastructure for cross-enterprise data exchange of highly-sensitive information, and the Sensitive Document Vault(TM) for secure storage and management of highly-sensitive documents. Cyber-Ark’s Vaulting platform has been tested by ICSA Labs, an independent division of Cybertrust and the security industry’s central authority for research, intelligence, and certification testing of security products. Cyber-Ark’s award-winning technology is deployed by more than 400 global customers, including 100 of the world’s largest banks and financial institutions. Headquartered in Newton, MA, Cyber-Ark has offices and authorized partners in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. For more information, visit