On the surface, SafeNet Labs’ cloud security report is perplexing. The technology incubator surveyed business professionals worldwide and asked if they were worried about the security of cloud-based applications and storage. Fifty-three percent said yes. Yet 64 percent said they use cloud apps frequently for personal and professional data.
Why do people use technology they don’t trust? Some tech industry observers fear users don’t take security seriously enough. Asked what “keeps you up at night” about data security, 52 percent answered “Nothing keeps me up at night. I sleep like a baby.”
Security concerns any organization whose workers use cloud software, including Canada’s federal government. The feds are developing a private shared services system to provide cloud computing for numerous government departments. But since that system is not yet up and running, you can bet that some civil servants are using public cloud services from time to time for data accessibility.
One especially notable fact from SafeNet’s study: the more senior the respondents, the more likely they were to use cloud services like Dropbox even if their companies forbade it. More than a third of respondents with “chief”-level business titles said they use cloud services despite corporate prohibition, compared to 18 percent of associate-level participants.
Some industry observers think the study suggests users are clueless about information security. “I find it troubling that executives want to use cloud services but shrug off the risk,” says ITBusinessEdge columnist Sue Marquette Poremba, responding to SafeNet’s report. “What will it take to ensure that everyone in a company takes security seriously?”
But SafeNet CSO Tsion Gonen suggests the report exemplifies human behaviour: risks are easy to ignore when the rewards are compelling. “We’ve reached the point where people just can’t function without these kinds of services,” he says of cloud software.
Gonen notes that it’s difficult for organizations to enforce policies that prohibit cloud use. IT managers who try to crack down sometimes meet opposition from bosses who want to use cloud services.
Gonen believes the answer lies in developing a new kind of security solution—one that doesn’t transform an elegant cloud interface into an unwieldy mess requiring multiple usernames and passwords.
That’s just what SafeNet is working on. Gonen says others companies will, too, because the need is great. But it isn’t easy. As with so many IT ideas, “it is really complex to bring about a change that seems so simple,” he says.
Whatever the solution, it must enable IT decision makers to continue walking that fine line between security and usability. Otherwise organizations risk exposing confidential data to theft or they hinder employees from working
as efficiently as possible.
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