Businesses should be making employees the first line of defence against data leaks, according to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Many organisations are complacent when it comes to information security and assume it will not happen to them, while individuals tend to think it is someone else's problem, research by PwC has found.
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The traditional response to improving protection and reducing risk has been strongly biased towards spending more money on technology.
But this approach of finding technical solutions to what is widely perceived as a technical problem is misguided, according to Craig Lunnon, OneSecurity, PwC.
"Technical solutions are too frequently being prescribed for people problems," he said.
Although technical defence is vital, systems are inherently vulnerable to both negligent and malicious acts by people, said Lunnon.
"Ignorance, confusion, anger or even curiosity can all give rise to incidents," he said.
Only 48% of UK organisations have an employee security awareness programme, compared with 64% in the US and India, according to PwC's 2010 Global State of Information Security Survey.
People within organisations typically by-pass security controls that create cumbersome processes that inhibit them from doing their jobs, the PwC report said.
What is required, the report suggests, is a new approach in which an investment in understanding and influencing the behaviours of all those concerned is balanced against continued investment in technology.
PwC recommends that better engagement between security teams and the business is needed as well as higher levels of engagement between organisations and employees.
The solution is to invest in people and make them the first line of defence, rather than the cause of security incidents, the report said.
"The goal is that all those working for an organisation are alert to risks, will want to act to protect information and will be actively supported in doing so," said Lunnon.
As the first line of defence, security-aware employees are often best placed to identify a potential breach or weak link, he said.
"Equally, they can prevent and reduce the impacts of incidents when they do occur," he added.
Investment in security awareness can help in
• Reducing incidents of theft, loss and fraud
• Avoiding breaches of law and/or regulation
• Ensuring continuous availability of business-critical information
• Protecting brand and reducing the potential for reputational risk
• Enabling the use of security as a positive marketing differentiator.