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A fact of current economic life is that employee turnover rates are on the rise. Many retailers, for example, have turnover rates approaching 100 percent, which means employees are coming and going at a ceaseless clip. What many companies don't realize is that when employees leave, they often take with them the firm's most precious assets--the mission-critical data that runs the business. This includes everything from customer account data to sales and inventory data to confidential business intelligence and everything else stored in the company's internal systems.



While departing employees routinely turn over things like laptops and security badges, they often hold on to the security IDs and passwords that provide access to the company's internal databases. In many companies, more than 20 percent of the accounts on internal systems such as e-mail and mainframes come from employees who have left the organization--often years ago. Disgruntled employees may take advantage of this access and tamper with company systems or the information on those systems.

So why haven't companies kept up with this growing security menace? Most are just beginning to realize that the Internet and e-business have opened doors to their business that didn't exist previously. Companies have rushed to add new applications that allow employees, customers, suppliers and partners to do the things they need to do, which has speeded up work and resulted in huge productivity gains. Data that was accessible a few years ago only by fax or phone is now a mouse click away. We are all beneficiaries of this incredible change.

But the downside to this increased access is that companies haven't bothered to integrate the applications they've been developing. That has not only added greatly to the complexity and cost of administering IT but--as these applications are neither integrated nor centrally managed--users wind up with multiple passwords and IDs.

Add to this situation three more layers of complexity:

  1. Companies have to keep track of all the new users entering the enterprise, along with which applications the individuals have a right to access.

  2. The applications often run on different computing platforms, each with its own security requirements.

  3. The cast of users changes daily.

The result is a situation where companies are hard-pressed to know who is accessing the business for what legitimate purposes.

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