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Enterprises are ripe picking grounds for would-be Ed Snowdens, according to a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute for Raytheon that found hundreds of organisations did not have policies to limit the amount of sensitive data staff can access.

The survey of 700 techies found Snowdens-in-waiting were typically database administrators, network engineers, infosec bods and "cloud custodians", who were doled out access rights on an ad-hoc basis.

The real Ed Snowden abused his access rights as a system administrator or infrastructure analyst for the National Security Analyst to siphon off the now infamous slide decks that revealed extensive spy operations by Five Eyes agencies.

The report says staff can cause more damage to organisations than external attackers.

"Damage caused by privileged users is the most extensive, the hardest to mitigate and the hardest to detect as it is done by authorised users doing things they are authorised to do," the report read (pdf).

"They are often very technically savvy and have elevated access to systems making it easy for them to cover their tracks ... cases of fraud and theft by privileged users often go undetected and unsolved."

Raytheon said many felt empowered by their regal privilege rights and already abused their positions by tapping into "all the information they can view", including the most sensitive data held by their companies.

Most users claimed they needed sweeping access to do their jobs but the remaining 25 per cent said their companies either handed out privileged rights to everyone or failed to revoke access when it was no longer required.

Snowden clones would probably get away with stealing secrets. Raytheon said most respondents' organisations lacked the intel required to identify data stolen by insiders or were bamboozled by false positives that incorrectly flagged rampant data pillaging.

About a third of respondents said access right policies were well defined and controlled by IT.

In Australia, insider fraud cases were often a matter for civil courts which led to bills totalling in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars.

Organisations had been defrauded by staff stealing real estate client lists, patient health care records and corporate intellectual property. ®

The next step in data security

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