Companies are not following simple data security procedures in seven high-risk scenarios, according to new research announced today by the Ponemon Institute, a privacy and information management research firm. The report, Data Security Policies Are Not Enforced, was sponsored by RedCannon Security, a provider of centrally managed, secure mobile-access solutions for the enterprise.

According to the study, 39 percent of employees surveyed said they have lost a PDA, cellular phone, USB memory stick, zip drive, or laptop computer that contained sensitive or confidential business information, while 56 percent believe their employer would never be able to determine the type of data contained on a lost device.

"Privacy and data protection policies are meaningless if they do not address the full spectrum of threats and if they are not enforced, and our research points to an urgent need to address this pervasive vulnerability in corporate data security programs," said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute. "The development of comprehensive policies, along with training and stringent enforcement of those policies should be a priority in any enterprise-wide data security program."

Data Security Policies Are Not Enforced highlights risks associated with the storage and transportation of confidential information, policies regarding lost portable devices, the lack of enforcement of existing policies concerning data security, and employees' lack of awareness about such policies. Only 10 percent of those surveyed said their organization has a policy to deal with the loss of a portable storage device containing sensitive information.

With today's technology, data is more portable than ever before. E-Mail, smartphones, MP3 players, and USB memory sticks are all examples of the many ways data can be transported and viewed away from computers, creating big challenges for IT professionals trying to secure confidential and personal information.

"Data breaches remain the leading cause of financial losses in business, with over 75 percent of Fortune 1000 companies falling victim to data leakage, and this is not going to change without improvements in the enforcement of data security policies," said Vimal Vaidya, founder and chief executive officer at RedCannon. "This study clearly indicates key data management practices that have a serious impact on data security and regulatory compliance, and highlights ways organizations can bolster policy enforcement and reduce the risks of potential data loss."

The study offers insights into the challenges facing IT professionals trying to secure confidential data. It identifies problems with the current rules in effect at the workplace, as well as the problems with enforcement of those rules. Most importantly, it shows employee naïveté towards this problem, with most staff members unaware of the rules in place, or uncaring due to lack of obvious consequences. The survey offers information on what is the most frequently lost portable storage device, the numbers of employees downloading personal software onto work computers, and statistics concerning how many portable devices that were lost had unprotected data on them, among other similarly invaluable information.