Larger than expected numbers of employees are copying sensitive company data to unsecured flash drives, often without the knowledge or authorization of their corporate IT departments. According to research from Milpitas, CA-based SanDisk Corp ., 77% of the employees surveyed use flash drives to store work-related data, including financial information, business plans, intellectual property and source code.

That’s more than double the 35% corporate IT respondents estimated, the flash drive manufacturer reports. The USB or Universal Serial Bus standard has been around about 13 years. But thanks to improved technology, there’s been explosive growth in the use of USB flash drives. However, because USB flash drives are portable and easy to lose, they create significant data loss risks and potentially serious security threats.

Gil Mildworth, senior director of marketing for SanDisk’s enterprise division, notes that data leaks can result in identity theft, loss of trade secrets and financial damage to organizations. “Corporate IT execs need more effective policies, education and technology solutions to mitigate the risks. Only a top-down effort involving intelligent device management, data monitoring and centralized policy enforcement will sufficiently reduce risks, while allowing organizations to reap the productivity benefits of enhanced mobility,” he says.

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