Top reason for data loss is human error, new study finds

Research into the biggest causes of data loss has concluded that human error is the primary reason for most incidents and it appears to have grown in significance over the years.

Software firm Kroll Ontrack carried out the survey and in 40 per cent of cases it was deemed that human error was attributable with being the main cause of data loss. This compares unfavourably with the fact that only 29 per cent of data loss is caused by the failure of computer hardware or IT systems.

The survey notes that a similar study carried out in 2005 found that only 11 per cent of data loss was as a direct result of human error, with 56 per cent the fault of hardware disasters and a spokesperson for Kroll Ontrack said that it was startled by the dramatic shift in the recently gathered statistics.

Data loss caused by viruses rose to seven per cent, up from three and external disasters that require business continuity planning were the cause of three per cent of data loss incidents, which is a two per cent increase over the findings of the 2005 study.

200 respondents from 17 international destinations across Europe, Asia and North America took part in the study and people from all sectors were considered, including hackers.

The 40 per cent human error figure does need some qualification, because it includes people who simply asserted that a human was to blame for a particular incident of data loss, while only 27 per cent of respondents could actually prove this to be the case. The only thing to conclude from this is that the reporting and investigation of data loss incidents is not always conclusive and as such many professionals are forced to make assumptions.

Protecting data and performing regular data back ups, securely is much discussed in the business world, but the statistics show that many are unsure of their responsibilities and the vulnerabilities of certain data handling policies, leading to an increase in human error. Kroll Ontrack’s Todd Johnson urges users and businesses to tackle threats head-on, enhancing training and keeping contingency plans available to help overcome the impact of serious data loss.

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