Proofpoint’s Inaugural Data Loss Landscape Report Reveals 80% of Australian Companies Suffer Data Losses as a Result of Careless Employees


94% of organisations who lost data saw negative outcomes including revenue losses and reputational damage

SYDNEY, Australia, 19 March 2024​ – Proofpoint, Inc., a leading cybersecurity and compliance company, today released its inaugural Data Loss Landscape ​report, which explores how current ​approaches to ​data loss prevention​ (DLP)​ ​and insider threats​ are holding up against current macro challenges such as ​data proliferation, sophisticated threat actors, and ​generative artificial intelligence (GenAI). The findings reveal that data loss is a problem stemming from the interaction between humans and machines ​​— “careless users” are much more likely to cause those incidents than compromised or misconfigured systems. 

While organisations are investing in ​DLP​ solutions​, Proofpoint’s report shows ​that those investments are often inadequate, with 80% of surveyed organisations in Australia experiencing data loss in the past year. More than ​nine in 10​ of those affected faced a negative outcome such as ​​business disruption ​​and revenue loss (reported by more ​than ​54% of affected organisations) or reputational damage (46%). ​Yet, surprisingly, data from Proofpoint’s Information Protection platform reveals that on a global level, only 1% of users are responsible for 88% of alerts.​ 

“This research illuminates the most critical aspect of the data loss problem: its human causes,” said Ryan Kalember, chief strategy officer, Proofpoint. “Careless, compromised, and malicious users are and will continue to be responsible for the vast majority of incidents, all while GenAI ​tools are​ absorbing common tasks—and ​gaining access to ​confidential data ​in the process​. Organisations need to rethink their ​DLP​ strategies to address the underlying cause of data loss—people’s actions—so they can detect, investigate, and respond to threats across ​all ​channels​ their employees are using​ including cloud, endpoint, email, and web.” 

The consequences of malicious actions can be costly. 34% of Australian respondents said malicious insiders such as employees or contractors were behind data loss incidents, while departing employees were identified as one of the riskiest user categories. Malicious actions and departing employees who seek to harm the organisation can have even greater implications than careless insiders because these individuals are motivated by personal gains.​ 

“The average cost of a data breach in Australia is now $4 million which has increased by 32 per cent in the last five years ,” commented Jennifer Cheng, director, cybersecurity strategy, Asia Pacific and Japan, Proofpoint. Despite the Australian government’s plan to invest $586.9 million to support organisations as part of their new cyber security strategy, it is clear more needs to be done at an individual level to prevent data loss.’’  

The ​2024 Data Loss Landscape​ report examines third-party survey responses from ​​600 security professionals at organisations with 1,000 or more employees across 17 industries​ from 12 ​​countries​. These insights were supplemented with data from Proofpoint’s Information Protection platform and Tessian, which Proofpoint acquired last October, to convey the scale of the data loss and insider threats that organisations face.  

Key Australian findings include: 

  • Data loss is a widespread yet preventable problem: organisations experience​d​ the equivalent of more than one incident per month (a mean of 19 data loss incidents per Australian organisation in the past year), and 66% of respondents said the main cause was careless users. Carelessness includes misdirecting emails, visiting phishing sites, installing unauthorised software, and emailing sensitive data to a personal account. ​These are all​ preventable behaviours that could be mitigated with practices such as implementing DLP policy rules for email, web uploads, cloud file synching, and other common data exfiltration methods. 

  • Privileged users are the riskiest: 70% of Australian respondents identified employees with access to sensitive data, such as HR and finance professionals, as representing the greatest risk of data loss. Additionally, Proofpoint data shows that globally, 1% of users are responsible for 88% of data loss events. These findings indicate that organisations must ​prioritise​ best practices such as using data classification to identify and protect business-critical data and the “crown jewels,” as well as monitoring people with access to sensitive data or admin privileges. 

  • Departing employees were identified as one of the riskiest user categories: Departing employees were identified as a risky user category by Australian respondents: departing employees do not always think they are acting maliciously—some simply feel entitled to leave with information they have produced. Global Proofpoint data shows that 87% of anomalous file exfiltration among cloud tenants over a nine-month period was caused by departing employees, underscoring the need for preventative strategies such as implementing a security review process for this user category.

  • Organisations’ data loss prevention programs are maturing: while many programs were initially implemented in response to legal regulations, 63% of survey participants in Australia cited protection of customer and employee privacy as the primary driver. Protecting intellectual property (47%) and meeting internal compliance standards (43%) were the second and third drivers for establishing a DLP program.

Key global findings include: 

  • Misdirected email is one of the simplest and most significant sources of data loss: According to 2023 data from Tessian, about one-third of employees sent one or two emails to the wrong recipient. That means a business of 5,000 employees can expect to deal with around 3,400 misdirected emails per year. A misdirected email containing employee, customer or patient data can potentially trigger a significant fine under GDPR and other legal frameworks. 

  • Generative AI is ​​the fastest growing area of concern: tools such as ChatGPT, Grammarly, Bing Chat and Google Gemini are increasing in power and utility, and more users are inputting sensitive data into these applications. “Browsing gen AI sites” has become one of the top five DLP and insider threat alert rules configured by organisations using Proofpoint’s Information Protection platform. 

Emerging channels underscore the importance of regularly reviewing ​DLP​ program​s, as​ these types of rapid developments change user behaviours​,” said Kalember​. ​“​Strategies such as implementing purpose-built ​DLP​ platforms can help advance security programs by enabling security teams to gain full user and data visibility into all incidents and address the full spectrum of human-centric data loss scenarios​.​ Humans are a critical data security variable—and data loss prevention programs must recognise this.”

To download ​the 2024 Data Loss Landscape​ report, please visit:  


About Proofpoint, Inc. 

Proofpoint, Inc. is a leading cybersecurity and compliance company that protects organisations’ greatest assets and biggest risks: their people. With an integrated suite of cloud-based solutions, Proofpoint helps companies around the world stop targeted threats, safeguard their data, and make their users more resilient against cyber-attacks. Leading organisations of all sizes, including 85 percent of the Fortune 100, rely on Proofpoint for people-centric security and compliance solutions that mitigate their most critical risks across email, the cloud, social media, and the web. More information is available at 

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