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Enterprises Are Sharing More Data Securely in the Cloud
Posted March 19, 2017
Enterprises Are Sharing More Data Securely in the Cloud
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By Jef Cozza. Updated March 19, 2017 6:57AM

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A new report by Symantec on the state of enterprise cloud security shows that employees are sharing more data more securely through the cloud than ever before. On the other hand, the number of unsanctioned applications running on network cloud infrastructures, known as "shadow IT," has also continued to rise.

The findings were published in Symantec’s 2H 2016 Shadow Data Report, which covers the second half of 2016. The report is based on anonymized meta data analysis of over 20,000 cloud apps, 175 million cloud documents, and 1.3 billion emails, according to Symantec.

More Data Sharing, But More Security, Too

On the whole, things seem to be looking up for enterprise cloud security. While companies are increasing their uses of cloud applications and file sharing, they are also doing so more responsibly. “Research shows a significant reduction in the percentage of broadly shared files in the cloud that contain confidential or compliance related content,” the company wrote in a blog post about the report.

Symantec said that in the second half of the year, 25 percent of all files stored in the cloud were broadly shared, with just 3 percent of these files containing compliance-related data.

To be classified as "broadly shared," a file is shared to the public, the entire organization, or an external third party. In the past, Symantec said that it was normal to find that 10 percent or more of broadly shared files contained sensitive data.

Still Room for Improvement

But the news is not all good, Symantec warned. "We are still not out of the woods because while it looks like a lower percentage of files in cloud file sharing contain compliance data than before, a surprising percentage of files with Protected Health Information (PHI), Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and Payment Card Information (PCI) data that make it to the cloud are potentially exposed,” the company reported.

In file sharing applications, PHI data led the pack with 82 percent of all files at risk of exposure, followed by 43 percent of files containing PII and 42 percent of files containing PCI data, according to Symantec. Email risk exposure was generally higher than file sharing exposure. Meanwhile, 27 percent of emails and attachments were broadly shared and 8 percent of emails contained compliance-related data.

Meanwhile, the rise of shadow IT continued to be a challenge for most enterprises. Employees were using many more cloud applications than what IT professionals typically assumed they were using, according to the report’s findings. Shadow IT discovery research indicated that organizations used 928 different cloud applications on average in the second half of 2016, a 10 percent increase over the first half of the year, according to Symantec.

And there were still plenty of attempts to penetrate network security. Symantec said that 66 percent of risky user activity that it analyzed represented attempts to extract data from an organization.

Image credit: iStock.

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