Employees take too many risks with Wi-Fi security

UK employees are potentially putting their companies at risk of cyber-attack when using mobile devices for work purposes while on holiday or on a short break, new research has found.

Cisco found that 77% of UK workers surveyed usually take their work devices with them on holiday, with 72% choosing to spend up to one or two hours per day keeping up with what’s going on in the office.

Over 80% of directors, mid-managers and senior level employees admitted to taking their work device on holiday, and even the most junior employees are also keen to stay connected while away with 50% unwilling to leave their work device at home.

Despite 69% of the study confirming that their employer had informed them about the risks associated with using devices remotely for work purposes, 60% admitted that they did not check the security of a wi-fi network before connecting to it whilst on holiday. Trainees were the worst offenders with three quarters (75%) not checking remote networks. However directors and mid-managers were also guilty with 60% and 59% respectively, also admitting to not checking a wi-fi network’s security before signing on.

Reading and sending emails were the most common activities (97% and 85% respectively) followed by nearly a third (30% and predominantly director-level employees) stating that they worked on tasks associated with managing people. Other prevalent tasks included working on corporate documents (27%) and spreadsheets (17%).

Sean Newman, Field Product Manager at Cisco, said: “The results of our “Beach to Breach’ study show that many workers do want get online and keep abreast of what’s going on in the office, while on holiday. While employees generally do not set out to deliberately pose an IT security risk to their employer, our study shows that the majority of workers are likely to be more concerned about getting online than strictly following the IT security policy. As such, security systems have to be designed to take on board the evolving work life patterns of the modern workforce.”

Newman concluded: “The upshot for companies is that there is no silver bullet when it comes to IT security. In the era of increased mobility of employees, they need to ensure they have full visibility across their network in order to spot unusual activities of behaviour. Cyber criminals are well resourced and professional and recognise that employees are often a company’s weakest link so target them to gain access to the corporate network. While businesses must realize that it’s not a matter of if they get attacked, but when and need to focus on setting their security accordingly, employees equally have their part to play by avoiding unsecured wi-fi networks, especially for work-related tasks, and ensuring that they adhere to their companies’ IT policies at all times.”

The study was carried out by independent research firm Opinion Matters between 25th April and 29th April 2014 and sampled 500 UK employees in companies with 500+ employees who can and do access their work whilst on holiday.

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