Report urges scrapping of physical data transfers

A study has concluded that the safest way in which to avoid data loss and theft is to outlaw the use of portable media and storage devices in the transfer of data.

Data protection firm Cyber-Ark found that sensitive information and private data is being sent by post or courier service in large quantities by nearly a fifth of all UK businesses.

Over the last few years there have been many high profile incidents of data loss caused by the misplacing of portable storage devices whilst in transit, but it seems that this has not stopped many firms from continuing to rely on this fundamentally insecure method of data transfer.

19 per cent of respondents stated that they persist in putting their trust in courier services when significant volumes of data are to be transported.

Two years ago a similar survey found that only four per cent of businesses used the standard Royal Mail postal service for similar data transfer exercises. However, this figure has risen rather than fallen, in the intervening period, with 11 per cent of respondents now saying that they post sensitive data.

Interestingly the number of private data transfers carried out via email has fallen over the same two year period, down from 35 per cent to 16 per cent. 28 per cent use online services to backup and transfer files, whilst the majority also utilise File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for some transfers.

Cyber-Ark said that no matter what the chosen method, the transfer of data between businesses was always going to be at risk of compromise. It cites the fact that even encrypted FTP sessions will still have a central FTP server as a weak link.

Cyber-Ark’s Mark Fullbrook said that even web services were not adequately secure for the purposes of transferring highly sensitive data. Mr Fullbrook believes that this is because these services were not specifically created with corporate level security in mind and, as a result, the security levels are far from satisfactory.

It is clear that the majority of UK businesses have completely removed physical data transfer from their daily operations, but as long as a small proportion continue to rely upon couriers and the postal service there is always a chance of damaging data loss.

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