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According to recent research, employees in the finance and human resources departments are seen as the mostly likely to cause a data breach.

The study, which polled more than 500 information technology decision makers and 4,000 employees in the US, UK, Germany and Australia, found that nearly half of respondents (46%) believe finance departments pose the biggest security threat to the organization. Meanwhile, 39 percent of respondents said the same of human resources employees.

“The concern over HR and finance is, at least in part, due to the sensitivity of the data that could be leaked and the consequences of that, and not necessarily that these departments are more careless than others,” explained Guy Bunker, Clearswift’s SVP of products, who sponsored the report.”

The report also found that the majority of respondents claimed that middle managers posed the greatest overall threat (37 percent), compared to senior management (19 percent) and administrative staff (12 percent).

Furthermore, employees between the ages of 35-44 were believed to be the most likely to leak company data with malicious intent.

“Senior managers are generally in tune with the consequences of data loss, while junior people often don’t have access to the kind of data that can cause disasters,” said Heath Davies, CEO at Clearswift.

“Middle aged, middle managers are in between – having access to the data, but no obvious stake in the consequences of losing it.”

Davies added that this particular group is also more likely to be under time and financial pressure, making them more inclined to take risks.

These fears and concerns revolve around the potential for mistakes made by employees, such as accidentally sending personal information (salaries, social security numbers, bank accounts) or proprietary data (contracts, customer details) to the wrong person.

Additional findings from Clearswift’s report include:

  • 49 percent of respondents believe that permanent employees are more likely to cause a breach
  • 79 percent of respondents believe that male employees are more likely to cause a breach than a female employee
  • 69 percent of respondents believe office-based employees are most likely to cause a breach than those working remotely

“We’re not proposing targeting individuals, but if you can understand the combination of factors that make certain people in certain roles more of a risk, you can focus your resources on ensuring those breaches don’t happen,” said Davies.

Providing tailored security training or putting more sophisticated layers of security around particular segments of the business are just some ways Davies suggests organizations can address these challenges.