November 11, 2008

More Than 50 Percent of Users Continue Risky Internet Behavior After a Security Breach

Palo Alto Networks today announced the results of a study by the Ponemon Institute examining behavioral aspects around corporate policy compliance with regards to Internet tools and applications. The most startling discovery was that when confronted with a security or privacy breach as a direct result of using an Internet application, 45 percent of employees did nothing and continued using the product. Furthermore, 19 percent simply decreased frequency or level of use.

Conducted by one of the world's foremost authorities on data security and privacy, the Ponemon Institute collected data from 649 employees who utilize the Internet for work, and 301 IT security practitioners who work within the same 193 U.S. based organizations. The report represents a first in studying one of the root causes for why employees do whatever they want, and so many breaches go undetected. It documents the specific policies in place within large organizations, and gauges the actual discrepancy between end users and IT within the same companies with regards to adherence to policy and baseline security.

The data becomes even more concerning when taken in the context of other findings, including:

-- In 62 percent of the cases, breach events resulted in confidential information or secrets revealed to others without permission

-- Policies prohibiting the use of specific applications exist in 78 percent of organizations, yet nearly half (48 percent) of IT respondents do not know if employees are using prohibited products

-- IT security professionals in 42 percent of the sample do not believe their security procedures are adequate to reduce any risks associated with the use of Internet applications

"This report is a first for us in analyzing the gap between stated policy and actual behavior - and the results are startling," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "Even in the face of continued large scale data loss, employee attitudes toward data security continue to be a major source of risk for businesses."

The report serves as a valuable companion Palo Alto's recently released Application Usage and Risk Report (AUR). Whereas the AUR looked at actual application prevalence and usage based on network data, this report defines the behavioral aspects behind the use and governance of those applications.

"This report confirms our greatest concern about the data we uncovered in our Application Usage and Risk report," said Steve Mullaney, vice president of marketing for Palo Alto Networks. "Regardless of intent, next generation Internet apps have saturated enterprise networks, in large part unbeknownst to IT, are not being used in a responsible manner. So IT is caught in the middle - trying to establish responsible controls without hindering business productivity. And unfortunately, lack of IT ability to enforce corporate policies is obviously breeding contempt for those policies."

The full report, The Ignored Risk of Employees' Use of Internet Applications is available for download at The latest edition of the Palo Alto Application Usage and Risk Report is available for download from Palo Alto Networks here. Additional information on more than 700 applications can be found in Palo Alto Networks' Application Research Center (ARC), an online resource that contains up-to-date information on the rapidly evolving application landscape - including the latest news, alerts and analysis. Included in the ARC is the ability to search the Applipedia(TM) for important characteristics of each application that must be considered when developing policies to enable safe and productive application usage within the enterprise.

About Palo Alto Networks

Palo Alto Networks(TM) enables visibility and policy control of applications and content running on enterprise networks. Based on innovative App-ID(TM) application classification technology, the Palo Alto Networks family of next-generation firewalls accurately identifies applications - regardless of port, protocol, evasive tactic or even SSL encryption - at 10Gbps with no performance degradation. Enterprises can now set and enforce application usage policies to meet compliance requirements, improve threat mitigation and lower operational costs. For more information, visit

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