Cloud App Usage and Data Violations by Industry, Plus Quick Wins for IT | Cloud industry forum

Cloud App Usage and Data Violations by Industry, Plus Quick Wins for IT

By Sue Goltyakova, Netskope

This week we released the Netskope Cloud Report for Autumn 2015 for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Each quarter we report on aggregated, anonymised findings such as top used apps, top activities, and top policy violations from across our customers using the Netskope Active Platform.

This season we focus primarily on app usage and data policy violations by industry grouping as well as activities in cloud apps. Plus, we distill that information down into a few “quick wins” for IT. Here’s an overview:


For the first time, this report breaks down trends by industry group, focusing on five key groupings with similar usage characteristics. They are: 

  • Healthcare and life sciences; 
  • Financial services, banking, and insurance; 
  • Retail, restaurants, and hospitality; 
  • Manufacturing; and 
  • Technology and IT services

The average number of cloud apps per enterprise in Europe, Middle East, and Africa climbed from 483 in our last report to 608 in this one, with 89.8 percent lacking in the areas of security, audit and certification, service-level agreement, legal, privacy, financial viability, and vulnerability remediation. Globally, technology and IT services saw the highest number of cloud apps, with an average of 1,157 apps per enterprise, with healthcare and life sciences a close second, with 1,017.


A key area of focus for us this season is Data Loss Prevention (DLP) in the cloud. A DLP violation can be anything from a German bank finding and encrypting personally-identifiable information in a Cloud Storage app to a British manufacturer detecting the upload of a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing of next year’s equipment model to a Collaboration app. With European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the horizon, our customers are paying particular attention to the type of data they’re detecting in the cloud, and many have already embarked on data protection strategies and data residency policy enforcement in the Netskope Active Platform.

This season, we found that healthcare and life sciences enterprises had the highest number of DLP policy violations in content at rest in sanctioned apps, with 21.1 percent of files scanned matching at least one DLP profile, such as personally-identifiable information (PII), payment card industry information (PCI), protected health information (PHI), source code, profanity, and “confidential” or “top secret” information. The second highest was Technology and IT services, with 14.2 percent. Overall, healthcare and life sciences enterprises accounted for the vast majority of total DLP policy violations (for both content at rest and en route to and from cloud apps), at 76.2 percent of the total. Not surprisingly, when we drill deeper into violation type, PHI makes up the bulk of such violations in cloud apps, at 68.5 percent. A full run-down on data violations by industry is in the report


The top five cloud app activities in this season’s report include “send,” “post,” “login,” “download,” and “view.” Activities associated with data leakage or exposure, such as “share” and “download,” are alive and well in key app categories such as Cloud Storage, HR, and Business Intelligence. In Cloud Storage, for every “login,” there are four “shares.” Within HR, “download” is the fourth most common activity. And within Business Intelligence, “share” – an activity many don’t expect even to be available in this category – is the top activity. 


Based on this report’s findings, here are some quick wins for enterprise IT to enable cloud apps while minimising risk:

  1. Discover and secure sensitive content both at rest in and en route to your cloud apps. Focus on most common DLP violations that carry penalties with current or pending legislation or can result in negative press, including PHI, PII, and PCI.
  2. In defining cloud app policies, consider not just popular Cloud Storage, Social, and Webmail apps, but also focus on business-critical apps like HR, Finance/Accounting, and Business Intelligence. These categories are useful to the business but typically fly under IT’s radar.
  3. Go beyond coarse-grained “allow” or “block” decisions on cloud apps, and enforce contextual policies on risky activities such as “download” (e.g., to mobile), “share” (e.g., outside of the company), or “delete” (e.g., if you’re not in the enterprise directory group “HR Directors”).

What are your quick wins for dealing with cloud app risk? We want to hear them!