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Unauthorized data access is dominating news headlines, putting even data of high-ranking government officials at risk. For instance, earlier this year, three presidential candidates' passport files were accessed by unauthorized personnel. While on the surface these events may seem unexpected, research reveals that current conditions make recurrences highly likely. According to a survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute in July 2008, 84 percent of organizations report that access to unstructured data is overly permissive and 50 percent rank themselves "poor" in access control. Additionally, 77 percent of respondents feel their company's unstructured data is not secure and protected.

However, the same research suggests that the situation may improve. Organizations across a variety of industries are realizing the risks these burgeoning unstructured data volumes (all digital information that resides outside of databases, including documents, presentations, spreadsheets, multimedia files and source code) pose when they aren't protected. The headlines make clear the consequences that accompany loss or misuse of proprietary business data.

And while loss of customer confidence and revenue are reason enough to protect data volumes, the challenge of unstructured data protection is propelled to center stage when coupled with regulatory mandates and potential fines for non-compliance. In fact, when extrapolating respondent willingness to buy software to address the problem, the potential market for data protection jumps to $3.16 billion, reports the Ponemon Institute. Also, according to IDC, the volume of unstructured data is exploding. In fact, the analyst firm reports that unstructured data was the fastest-growing information segment in 2007.

To gain control of unstructured data and manage its growth, companies must know who is able to access data and what the user access events are. Furthermore, companies need to know who should have permissions revoked or granted and what to do with unused or unnecessary data. Unfortunately, a large number of organizations simply don't know where to begin.

For most organizations, following unstructured data protection "musts" is very challenging since data growth and user needs for access change much too quickly. Therefore, even if the organization is small, the data it creates and preserves can quickly outpace the IT department's ability to keep up with protections and access control lists.


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