‘Cyber threat’ from smart working

Employees could be unwittingly exposing their company’s confidential data to the threat of cyber criminals, according to research from Modis, the specialist IT staffing provider.

The research with over 1,200 UK office workers revealed that, despite recent high profile cyber security breaches, many employees never consider the threat of cyber crime and are unfamiliar with company policies designed to protect their data. Part-time workers were almost twice as likely not to know about policies relating to protection of information.

Half (51%) of employees with a company smart phone admitted they never consider whether they are compromising company security when they upload or download data to their phone.

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The process of accessing data via a company phone could create a window for cyber criminals to infiltrate the employee’s company network. Yet knowledge of policies to protect against this is lacking. Two in five (40%) of those surveyed said they didn’t know of any policy to protect their company’s data against cyber crime when they use their phone.

Employees are similarly lax, says Modis, about cyber security when uploading or downloading data to their company PC (50%) or lap top (50%). A quarter of workers don’t know of any policy to protect data when they use email (27%) or their company PC (25%).

The research also found that two fifths of part-time workers said they didn’t know of any policy applying to how they use their company laptop, compared to a quarter (27%) of full-time workers.

Roy Dungworth, Managing Director of Modis, said: “Growth in networking options and devices like laptops and smart phones have made remote working increasingly common.

“But the rise of flexible working and cloud computing through different devices that operate online has created a multitude of points at which cyber criminals can access a company’s data.

“With cyber security such a high profile issue, employers are now aware of the risks, but few realise that their own employees are their greatest vulnerability. Our latest research reveals that the extent of the threat of cyber crime is not being realised by employees.

“Employers must be explicit about the policies which govern the way their employees use every piece of hardware and software at their disposal, from laptops and tablets through to email and the intranet.

“Every time an employer introduces a new device to enable employees to work remotely, robust policies must be made and communicated as part of the introduction of these devices.”

The research from Modis also found:

– Younger workers are more likely to be clued up on policies to protect their company’s data when they use different devices: 17% of 45-54 year olds don’t know of any policy affecting the way they use a company laptop, compared to just 3% of 16-24 year olds and 9% of 25-34 year olds.

– Workers in the education sector are least likely to consider the security of their organisation’s data when uploading or downloading data: 52% of respondents working in the education sector said they never think about it.

– Few business owners think about the security of their own organisation’s data when downloading or uploading data. Nearly six in ten (57%) business owners never consider their company’s data when uploading and downloading data compared to half (50%) of middle managers.

Dungworth added: “It is time for business leaders to make consideration of data protection core to their company’s culture. Business leaders themselves must set an example of the vigilance they want their employees to exercise. They should also initiate a core education programme on data security as well as comprehensive policies applying to all hardware and software an employee can use.”

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