The study, conducted on behalf of Check Point Software Technologies, surveyed more than 2,400 IT security administrators. Of the types of data loss experienced, customer information was by far the most prevalent, cited by 52 percent of respondents. This was followed by loss of intellectual property, employee data and corporate plans.
Loss of customer information, in particular, can be severely damaging to a business. In addition to the fines and lawsuits that may follow a data breach, companies that fail to implement adequate data protection practices also often suffer from reputational damage.
As witnessed by recent large-scale data breaches suffered by Sony and Epsilon, such incidents can be a public relations nightmare, often resulting in a loss of confidence on the customer's end and, subsequently, a loss of business.
Combined, the Sony and Epsilon breaches exposed the personal information of more than 100 million individuals. Since the data security failures were discovered, both companies have had to do considerable legwork to restore customer faith, and both have been heavily criticized for their data protection practices.
One issue that may be contributing to the frequency of data loss is employee awareness. In its research, the Ponemon Institute discovered that 49 percent of respondents said their organizations' employees have little to no knowledge of data security practices or policies. This could result in not only data breaches from external attacks, but from accidental internal incidents as well.
"Data security in a modern day world means more than deploying a set of technologies to overcome these challenges," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "In fact, the lack of employee awareness is a primary cause in data loss incidents and is encouraging more businesses to educate their users about corporate policies in place."