With 2022 signaling a 35 percent increase in cloud app usage within organizations, with anywhere between 500-2000 users interacting with, sharing, and storing data between 138 apps while using roughly 1,558 cloud apps per month, Netskope, Security Service Edge (SSE) and Zero Trust specialists, whose research revealed these findings, believe the evidence points to an explosive spread in the usage of cloud apps worldwide, and DomainRooster will unpack some of the findings below.

According to the ‘Netskope Cloud and Threat Report: Cloud Data Sprawl’, approximately 22 percent of users create, upload, store or share data in personal apps and instances, with Gmail, WhatsApp, Google Drive, and Facebook, among others, accounting for most of those occurrences. The research also highlighted that 20 percent of users, which now represent a 33 percent increase when compared to the corresponding period last year, upload remarkably large quantities of data within the 30 days before leaving an organization. 

According to Ray Canzanese, Threat Research Director at Netskope Threat Labs, “Cloud apps have helped to increase productivity and enable hybrid work, but they have also caused an ever-increasing amount of data sprawl that puts sensitive data at risk. Personal apps and instances are particularly concerning since users maintain access to data stored in those instances even well after they leave an organisation. Proactive security measures – especially policy controls that limit access to sensitive data to only authorised users and devices and prevent sensitive data from being uploaded to personal apps and personal instances – can help reduce the risks of loss or exposure of sensitive data.”

The ‘Netskope Cloud and Threat Report: Cloud Data Sprawl’ research also brought to light the following:

  • Personal app usage is highest in Retail, while Financial Services accounted for the lowest app usage, despite being the most successful at limiting data flow into personal apps, with less than 9.6 percent of users being affected. When compared to Retail, that number stood at 39.1 percent.
  • The first five months of 2022 have seen a 14 percent increase in data activity, when compared with the same period last year, amongst users, from 65 percent to 79 percent.
  • Organizations have been found to use a lot of apps with overlapping functionalities, which increases the risk for security breaches as misconfigurations, as well as inconsistent access policies could occur.

As a result, Canzanese concludes, reining in cloud data sprawl and reducing risks don’t have to be a trade-off between data security and productivity. Organizations should take the necessary policy steps to protect sensitive data while maintaining knowledge of how apps may overlap in usage.

The above findings are based on anonymous data usage between January 1 and May 31, 2022, produced by Netskope Threat Labs, a team of leading malware and cloud researchers.


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