New Research Uncovers Security and Audit Risks Exposed in Business Documents

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A new research report published today entitled The Risk of Sharing shows increasing risks and liabilities organisations face when dealing with document review and exchange. The research, sponsored by Workshare, highlights the need for businesses to improve 'Document Integrity' processes in order to reduce the security, compliance, accuracy and efficiency issues associated with business documents in an increasingly email-centric world.

The research, gathered from 300 businesses across the UK, US and Australia by independent research consultancy, Vanson Bourne, uncovers how risks, such as inadvertent exposure of document hidden information (i.e., metadata), lack of process auditability, inaccuracies through review cycles and significant resource drains created throughout the document process are pervasive across many industries today. The report reveals:

Over exposed Up to 75% of business documents contain legally sensitive information

Ignorance of risk
90% of business users have no awareness of potentially damaging, hidden information (metadata) that resides in amended documents

Accountability gaps
Only 40% of individuals contributions end up in a final version, creating significant gaps in the document audit trail

Worse than spam
Business users spend more email time handling email-attached business documents than dealing with spam

Amendment hell
Business professionals spend on average 2.5 hours in amendment and approval hell, tackling emailed document attachments

Stare and compare
There is a lack of faith in the existing technology available to manage document changes, with 82% of business users still preferring to use hard copy documents for in complex approval processes

Graham Opie, senior researcher, Vanson Bourne, says One striking aspect of the research is the consistency of findings across three distinct territories. There is a global significance to the problem. This is easy to understand when we look at the fact that email and Word, with hundreds of million users worldwide, are the common tools used to create, amend and send business documents.

Integrity is set to become an important part of business for 2005, commented Joe Fantuzzi, CEO, Workshare. The security, accuracy and compliance of document content are being overlooked by companies, creating an unnecessary risk from a seemingly benign process. Document integrity looks at these processes and closes the accountability and efficiency gaps created by business users exchanging and amending information.

With auditing and data capture increasing in importance as a result of legislation such as Sarbanes Oxley, Basel II, Companies Act and the Freedom of Information Act (UK) there is a mounting case for companies to maintain tighter control on document compliance and security. The Risk of Sharing report reveals a lack of awareness and potential gaps in existing processes that present immediate challenges for companies that recognise the need for action in this area.

Concluding, Fantuzzi comments, A best practices approach to document integrity starts with a non-disruptive monitoring of existing processes followed by ongoing analysis, modelling and amendment. All organisations that place high value on business documents, such as public corporations, professional services firms and public sector organisations, should take something from the Risk of Sharing report

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