Employees are deliberately disabling security controls

Corporate mobile devices and the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon are rapidly circumventing enterprise security and policies, say the results of a new global study sponsored by Websense.

Speaking with Help Net Security at the RSA Conference 2012 today, Tom Clare Senior Director of Product Marketing at Websense introduced the results to our readers.

Listen to the podcast here.

77 percent of more than 4,000 respondents in 12 countries agree that the use of mobile devices in the workplace is important to achieving business objectives, but only 39 percent have the necessary security controls to address the risk their use entails

According to a previous Ponemon Institute survey, IT respondents said 63 percent of breaches occurred as a result of mobile devices, and only 28 percent said employee desktop computers were the cause.

This latest research shows that organizations often don’t know how and what data is leaving their networks through non-secure mobile devices, and that traditional static security solutions are not effective at stopping advanced malware and data theft threats from malicious or negligent insiders.

Key findings:

  • 59 percent of respondents report that employees circumvent or disengage security features, such as passwords and key locks, on corporate and personal mobile devices.
  • During the past 12 months, 51 percent of the organizations in this study experienced data loss resulting from employee use of insecure mobile devices, including laptops, smartphones, USB devices, and tablets.
  • 77 percent of respondents agree that the use of mobile devices in the workplace is important to achieving business objectives. A similar percentage (76 percent) believes that these tools put their organizations at risk. Only 39 percent have the necessary security controls to address the risk, and only 45 percent have enforceable policies.
  • Insecure mobile devices increase rates of malware infections. 59 percent of respondents say that over the past 12 months, their organizations experienced an increase in malware infections as a result of insecure mobile devices in the workplace, with another 25 percent unsure.
  • 65 percent of respondents are most concerned with employees taking photos or videos in the workplace – probably due to fears about the theft or exposure of confidential information. Other unacceptable uses include downloading and using internet apps (44 percent) and using personal email accounts (43 percent). 42 percent say that downloading confidential data onto devices (USB or Bluetooth) is not acceptable in their organizations.

“We asked thousands of IT security professionals and mobile devices were overwhelmingly important to business objectives,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. “However, mobile devices put organizations at risk—risks that they do not have the necessary security controls and enforceable policies to address. It’s also clear that employees are deliberately disabling security controls, which is a serious concern.”

More than 4,600 IT and IT security practitioners in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Mexico, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the United States were surveyed. With an average of 10 years’ experience in the field, fifty-four percent are supervisors (or above) and 42 percent are from organizations with more than 5,000 employees. This survey defines mobile devices as laptops, USB drives, smartphones, and tablets.

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