Security

Survey highlights unsafe data security practices in the workplace

By Dell
Security
Published: 21 April 2017

Dell has released the results of its Dell End-User Security Survey, which finds that not only are many employees likely to share confidential information, but that they are doing so without proper data security protocols in place or in mind. Results show that today’s workforce is caught between two imperatives: be productive and efficient on the job and maintain the security of company data. To address data security issues, companies must focus on educating employees and enforcing policies and procedures that secure data wherever they go, without hindering productivity.

Employees likely to share confiIential information
Survey results indicate that among the professionals that work with confidential information on a regular basis, there is a lack of understanding in the workplace regarding how confidential data should be shared and data security policies. This lack of clarity and confusion is not without merit; there are many circumstances under which it makes sense to share confidential information in order to push business initiatives forward.

  • Three in four employees say they would share sensitive, confidential or regulated company information under certain circumstances for a wide range of reasons including:
    • Being directed to do so by management (43 percent)
    • Sharing with a person authorised to receive it (37 percent)
    • Determining that the risk to their company is very low and the potential benefit of sharing information is high (23 percent)
    • Feeling it will help them do their job more effectively (22 percent)
    • Feeling it will help the recipient do their job more effectively (13 percent)
  • Four in five employees in financial services (81 percent) would share confidential information, and employees in education (75 percent), healthcare (68 percent) and federal government (68 percent) are also open to disclosing confidential or regulated data at alarmingly high rates.

“When security becomes a case-by-case judgement call being made by the individual employee, there is no consistency or efficacy,” said Brett Hansen, vice president of Endpoint Data Security and Management at Dell. “These findings suggest employees need to be better educated about data security best practices, and companies must put procedures in place that focus first and foremost on securing data while maintaining productivity.”

Unsafe behaviours common in the workplace
The survey finds that when employees handle confidential data, they often do so insecurely by accessing, sharing and storing the data in unsafe ways. Twenty-four percent of respondents indicated they do so to get their job done and 18 percent say they did not know they were doing something unsafe. Only 3 percent of respondents said they had malicious intentions when conducting unsafe behaviours.

  • Forty-five percent of employees admit to engaging in unsafe behaviours throughout the work day
  • These behaviours include connecting to public Wi-Fi to access confidential information (46 percent), using personal email accounts for work (49 percent), or losing a company-issued device (17 percent)
  • One in three employees (35 percent) say it is common to take corporate information with them when leaving a company
  • Employees take on unnecessary risk when storing and sharing their work, with 56 percent using public cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and others to share or back-up their work
  • Forty-five percent of employees will use email to share confidential files with third-party vendors or consultants

Employees support protecting information, but don’t feel empowered
The survey findings indicate that employees struggle with cybersecurity in the workplace because they do not want to see their company suffer a data breach, but they also struggle with the limitations security programs can put on their day-to-day activities and productivity.

  • Nearly two in three employees (65 percent) feel it is their responsibility to protect confidential information, including educating themselves on possible risks and behaving in a way that protects their company
  • Thirty-six percent of employees feel very confident in their knowledge of how to protect sensitive company information
  • Twenty-one percent feel it is difficult to keep up with changing security guidelines and policies, and 22 percent say they are worried that someday they will do something by mistake and cause damage to their company
  • Nearly two in three (63 percent) employees are required to complete cybersecurity training on protecting sensitive data. However, of those who received cybersecurity training, 18 percent still conducted unsafe behaviour without realising what they were doing was wrong, whereas 24 percent conducted unsafe behaviour anyway in order to complete a task

“While every company has different security needs, this survey shows how important it is that all companies make an effort to better understand daily tasks and scenarios in which employees may share data in an unsafe way,” says Hansen. “Creating simple, clear policies that address these common scenarios in addition to deploying endpoint and data security solutions is vital in order to achieve that balance between protecting your data and empowering employees to be productive.”

About the Dell End User Security Survey
Dimensional Research conducted an online survey commissioned by Dell Data Security among 2,608 professionals that personally have access to and work with confidential, sensitive or regulated data and information at companies with more than 250 employees. Participants were surveyed across eight countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The research was conducted from Feb. 24 to March 9, 2017.

Full report can be found here