Study: Cloud app data sharing growth increases risks

Netskope's Cloud Report shows the average number of cloud apps used in the enterprise is growing -- but the majority of those apps lack proper security and policy controls.

A new report shows that sharing of cloud application data is on the rise, putting enterprises at greater risk for data breaches.

The report, which was compiled by Netskope, a cloud analytics and policy enforcement firm based in Los Altos, California, shows the average number of cloud apps used by an enterprise increased to 508 this quarter, up from 461 the previous quarter. In addition, the report found that for every upload to a cloud app, there is an average of three shares of that cloud app data.

"Most companies realize they are using a lot of cloud app[s] and that there is a certain level of 'shadow IT' in their environment," said Sanjay Beri, founder and CEO of Netskope. "But what I don't think they know is the magnitude of cloud apps being used, and what those apps are being used for."

The July 2014 Netskope Cloud Report, which was based on billions of cloud app events monitored by Netskope's Active Platform, noted that 88%of those 508 cloud apps are not ready for enterprise use, according to Netskope's Cloud Confidence Index. In other words, the vast majority of these cloud apps lack the proper security features and access or administrative controls.

When you're bringing in your own devices, you're bringing in your own apps, too.
Sanjay Berifounder and CEO of Netskope

Some of the top cloud apps identified in the report include Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon CloudDrive and Box -- all of which are among the leading cloud storage offerings. But, the report also identified a growing number of line-of-business applications being adopted by enterprises. Specifically, the report found an average of 61 cloud-based marketing apps within each enterprise – with a startling 98.3% of them deemed not enterprise-ready by Netskope.

"There are a lot of cloud apps [for marketing] that are very niche-focused, but they're rarely enterprise ready," Beri said. "Of all the findings in this report, that's one that stood out to customers because the average number was so high and because marketing apps are where a lot of sensitive data can be found."

The BYOD Effect

A key driver in the growth of cloud apps in the enterprise is the increasing inclusion of mobile devices, and the adoption of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. "When you're bringing in your own devices, you're bringing in your own apps, too," Beri said. "A large percentage of the apps are not being brought in by the IT department, so IT doesn't have the ability to govern them."

That makes the risks of cloud app data sharing even greater, Beri said. But instead of trying to ban all of these cloud apps, he recommended that enterprises institute stricter policies for data usage and sharing in order to educate employees on the importance of data security.

"I think that's what enterprises are focused on now -- protecting the data and curtailing improper use of those close apps rather than trying to get rid of them all," Beri said. "I don't think enterprises want to get rid of all these cloud apps because they're very useful and can improve productivity, but at the same time, they want to have security and control over their data."

According to the authors of the Netskope report, the growth in cloud apps and data sharing is only going to continue. "I think the average number of cloud apps [in an enterprise] will continue to go up," Beri said. "The number of data uploads is increasing and the number of shares of that data is definitely increasing, so enterprises will need to address this soon, if they haven't already."

Dig deeper on Cloud Computing Security Issues: Incident Response - Data Breach Prevention

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