Worker Habits are a Major Cybersecurity Threat

Nov. 5, 2015

Study finds employee online behaviors can jeopardize enterprise data.

Even though end users are thought to be more tech savvy than ever before, new research shows that many workers still have dangerous habits that can put business information at risk, such as connecting devices to public Wi-Fi networks, using work devices for personal activities, and not diversifying login information.

The study found that up to 50% of workers use at least 10 separate logins, but only 34% use at least 10 unique logins. The results also show that 94% of employees connect their laptop or mobile device to public Wi-Fi networks, including 78% reporting to check work email and 60% accessing work documents, which can put organizational data at risk from hackers. Additionally, with 45% of employees saying that their organization doesn’t provide any type of training for cybersecurity and 15% trained with paper-based manuals, the study’s authors note that organizations and businesses could do more to educate users on proper cybersecurity best practices.

The research, commissioned by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), consisted of an online survey of 1,200 U.S. employees about their technology use and awareness of cybersecurity situations and best practices as well as a real-world social experiment. The experiment involved placing unbranded USB sticks in public areas to see if consumers would pick up and plug the stick into their devices. When plugged in, the USB sticks would prompt users to send an email to a specific address or click on a link that was being tracked by the researchers. Over several weeks, 17% of people picked up the USB sticks and either sent the email or clicked on the unique link. Researchers are quick to note that even a number of IT industry workers engaged in the risky practice, noting that having cybersecurity knowledge is separate from having secure habits.

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