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Data-leakage prevention tools catch errors, not theft

Products are useful, but not against data-theft professionals, analyst says.

By , Network World
September 11, 2007 11:48 AM ET

Network World - CHICAGO -- Platforms that detect when sensitive corporate data is leaked are more effective against people making honest errors than they are against criminals trying to steal the data, says one analyst.

A small percentage of data that leaks from corporate networks (0.5%) is stolen by professionals whose efforts will evade detection by security products touted as data-leakage prevention tools, says Nick Selby, an analyst with 451 Group who spoke at the Security Standard conference Monday.

The products do catch data leaks, 98% of which are linked to an accident or stupidity and 1.5% that are caused by vengeful employees clumsily attempting to steal data, he says. “Data leakage is an antistupidity issue as much as it is a technology issue,” Selby says. “Most data-leakage products can’t discover activity by skilled insiders looking to steal.”

He says the products should be recast as tools that can help eliminate data breaches made in error, rather than those that are done intentionally.

Selby named Reonnex, Vontu, Onigma (bought by McAfee), Tablus (bought by EMC/RSA) and Port Authoritiy (bought by WebSense), among many others. He singled out these vendors because they have been the recipients of venture-capital dollars. He says the total investment in this technology amounts to $250 million. “That’s an awful lot of money,” Selby says, “and vendors, you’re not going to fix [the problem].”

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