Almost 40% of IT staff can get unauthorised access to sensitive information, and 20% admit to accessing executives' confidential data, according to research.

IT professionals are allowed to roam around corporate networks unchecked, according to a survey of more than 450 IT professionals by security software firm Lieberman Software.

The survey found that 39% of IT staff can get unauthorised access to their organisation’s most sensitive information – including the CEO’s private documents – and one in five has already accessed data they shouldn’t have.

As IT professionals 68% believe they have more access to sensitive information than colleagues in other departments such as HR, finance and the executive team - leaving companies wide open to data breaches from the inside.

The study found that, if they thought their job was at risk, 11% of respondents would abuse their administrative rights to snoop around the network to seek out the redundancy list and other sensitive information.

If laid off tomorrow, 11% said they would be in a position to take sensitive information with them. Nearly a third claimed their management does not know how to stop them either.

Philip Lieberman, CEO of Lieberman Software, said “The reality is that powerful privileged account credentials are being abused. Management must step up to the plate and take charge by establishing systems and procedures to lock down data from prying eyes, or their secrets will continue to be stolen from under their noses.”

Lieberman said organisations can control privileged account access and diminish insider threats with a four-part process:

  1. Identify and document critical IT assets, their privileged accounts and their interdependencies.
  2. Delegate access to privileged credentials so that only appropriate personnel, using the least privilege required, can login to IT assets.
  3. Enforce rules for password complexity, diversity and change frequency, and synchronise changes across all dependencies.
  4. Audit and alert so that the requester, purpose, and duration of each privileged access request is documented.