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Voice of the Employee

Only 39 per cent of UK employees recognise that sharing their organisations’ intellectual property could damage their companies if leaked, according to a new study.

Around half of all employees have access to their firms’ intellectual property and a third believe they have access to information which is above their pay grade, a new study from data loss prevention specialist Clearswift has found.

The research shows that the value of company information is “poorly understood across the board”, with a minority recognising the potential for damage if intellectual property is shared.

One in three (35 per cent) would even be willing to sell their company’s data for the right price, which is as little as £100 for some.

However, most did require a higher price, wanting more than £10,000 and a small group wanting £1,000 to consider doing so.

UK employees demonstrated an overall lack of understanding of how the loss of different types of data could negatively impact their companies.

Only 53 per cent thought that loss of financial data, such as account details, would cause any serious harm, and only half thought that losing customer data such as contact details would cause damage.

55 per cent thought that losing information regarding employee salaries and medical records would not harm anyone, and 61 per cent did not believe that loss of payment and credit card details would cause any damage.

A parallel study of security professionals brought similar information to light, with 72 per cent voicing beliefs that internal security threats were not treated with the same importance as external threats by executive boards.

14 per cent of the security professionals questioned also said that internal threats to their companies would not be taken seriously until they suffered a serious internal data breach of some form.

“The value of a company’s intellectual property is frequently misunderstood,” said Clearswift CEO Heath Davies. “Intellectual property is often a company’s most prized possession.

“If it were to fall into a competitor’s hands, or even unauthorised hands, it could cause immense financial damage to a company. It is incredible that so many survey respondents say they have access to such information, yet so few seem to realise its value.”

He added that while most employees behaved out of carelessness rather than malice, leaking intellectual property could still cause serious damage to firms and raising awareness of intellectual property was an issue that boards needed to address.

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