Human errors resulting in data loss from cloud-based applications reveals Veritas

Veritas Technologies has today unveiled research finding that office workers in the UAE are not always quick to admit their errors when losing data from cloud-based applications, such as Microsoft Office 365, which they have been asked to adopt in the wake of the COVID pandemic. As a result, their employers are losing critical business information, including customer orders and financial data, through accidents and ransomware attacks.

In its new research, which polled 11,500 office workers across nine countries, including 500 from the UAE, Veritas found that seven in ten (72%) UAE-based office workers have accidentally deleted shared data (such as Word documents, presentations or spreadsheets), with as many as 24% accidentally deleting shared data multiple times a week.

UAE employees more likely to admit to mistakes than global counterparts

According to the research, UAE employees are more willing than their global counterparts to come forward and admit their mistakes, with 89% saying they have owned up to accidentally deleting data from cloud applications such as Office 365 or Google Docs, compared to 84% globally. Of those that weren’t so quick to come forward, 36% said no one noticed their error, but in the cases where the accidents were discovered, almost a fifth (19%) of respondents reported that the data was lost for good.

Employees are even less forthcoming with ransomware incidents. Just 18% of UAE respondents said they would immediately alert their IT department if mistakes they made introduced ransomware into their organisations. Another 43% said they would either do nothing or pretend it hadn’t happened.

Johnny Karam, Managing Director & Vice President of International Emerging Region at Veritas Technologies, said: “There’s often a short window where businesses can act to minimise the impact of deleting or corrupting cloud-based data used by employees. Without knowing the full details of where a ransomware attack came from, plus how and when, it’s much harder to limit its impact. We recommend that businesses in the Middle East create a culture of openness, with less judgement around human error. This means motivating employees to come forward as soon as possible so IT teams can act fast to take remedial action and save mission-critical data.”

Misconceptions exist around cloud data protection

The research also highlighted that there are misconceptions around how much help the cloud companies hosting their files would offer, in the event that their data is lost. In fact, nearly all UAE-based respondents (96%) thought their cloud provider would be able to restore their files for them, either from a cloud copy, their ‘deleted items’ folder or a backup.

“Almost two-thirds (65%) of the office workers we surveyed in the UAE think data in the cloud is safer from ransomware because they assume their cloud providers are protecting it from malware they might accidentally introduce,” Karam said. “Unfortunately, this misconception will continue to put businesses at risk until it’s thoroughly debunked. The truth is that, as part of their standard service, most cloud providers only provide guarantee of resiliency of their service, they do not provide guarantees that a customer, using their service, will have their data protected. In fact, many cloud providers even include shared-responsibly models in their terms and conditions, making it clear that protecting the data is the customer’s responsibility. Storing data in the cloud doesn’t automatically make it safe, it still needs strong data protection.”

Business information is being lost forever

The research revealed that the average office worker in the UAE has accidentally caused the loss of 39 documents in the last year, reflecting the scale of the problem impacting cloud applications. In addition, half (50%) of employees say that when they have lost data, they didn’t know who to tell or didn’t think it was important to tell anyone. And 21% admit they have either forgotten their company’s policy for safe file storage or have never seen it.

“A huge number of employees believe it’s going to be easy to get data back from their company’s cloud provider —in reality, that’s not their job. As a result, 59% of respondents to our survey said they’d accidentally deleted a file in the cloud and were never able to get it back. It’s every business’ responsibility to protect their own data, whether in the cloud or stored on their own devices. If they can get that right and offer regular guidance and training on how to restore lost files, then they can take the pressure off their employees. Blaming people doesn’t help—having a backup for your data however, does.” Karam added.