McAfee has released an appliance that aims to prevent the disclosure of confidential information.
The Data Loss Prevention Gateway scans network traffic and uses so-called hash values to identify data such as social security numbers or other data deemed confidential.
The appliance works with McAfee's Data Loss Prevention Host software released in February, giving companies control over what data can be printed or pasted into an email.
The host version is limited to desktop computers, where the appliance sifts through all data that travels on the corporate network, including emails from BlackBerry devices and data downloaded from notebook computers logged in remotely.
The data loss debate typically focuses on the damage to a firm's corporate image and the cost of cleaning up the damage. But McAfee stressed that the loss of the data itself can also be a great cost.
A McAfee-sponsored study published concurrently with the new appliance put the value of intellectual property and core financial information lost as the result of a data breach at $1.68m on average.
A competitor could use such data to speed up their product development, for example, or to steal customers.
The study surveyed 1,400 large organisations in Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the US.
Around 60 per cent indicated that they had suffered some kind of data breach in the past two years, and only six per cent would state without hesitation that they have not suffered a data leakage in the past two years.
The report urged companies to pay more attention to protecting confidential data. But McAfee admitted that the damages from a loss of customer data are still driven by the negative publicity that such incidents tend to attract.
"Data loss is not a new problem. What is new is the public exposure of it," Kevin LeBlanc, group product marketing manager for McAfee Total Protection and Data Loss Prevention, told vnunet.com.
In addition to recent regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, legislation in California requires companies to come clean about data breaches that affect local consumers.
This does not just cause public embarrassment, but can prove arduous as each victim needs to be notified.
McAfee is not the only firm promising to prevent confidential information leaks. Symantec offers a similar data leakage protection with its Mail Security and Web Security products.
McAfee expects to starts shipping its Gateway product on 21 May and will provide pricing information at that time. The Host software is currently shipping.
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