A research launched by Menlo Security reveals increased cybersecurity risks posed to employees and organizations during the 2021 holiday shopping season.
The research – which surveyed 2,000 employed people in the United States and the United Kingdom – found that while employees are concerned about threats and are taking some measures to mitigate them, they often have false confidence in their security posture.
There are now more threats to corporate devices and networks than ever as hybrid work models blur the boundaries between work and home. More than half of respondents (56% U.S.; 53% U.K.) reported performing non-work-related tasks – such as online shopping – on company devices.
Furthermore, the survey found that 65% of people in the U.S. (63% U.K.) are doing more online holiday shopping in 2021 compared to previous years, and nearly half of respondents (48% U.S.; 45% U.K.), reported shopping for gifts this holiday season on a work-issued device such as a laptop or mobile phone.
Employees aware of cybersecurity risks
Workers are also noticing a rise in cyber threats this holiday season, with 58% of respondents in the U.S. (48% U.K.) observing an increase in scams and fraudulent messages, exemplifying that threats are rampant worldwide. This is worrying many people, as the vast majority of respondents (80% U.S. & U.K.) report being somewhat to very concerned about their personal data being stolen while online shopping.
However, despite workers’ recognition and concern of cyber threats, 60% of people (65% U.K.) still believe they’re secure from cyberthreats if they’re using a company device.
“Workers are becoming increasingly aware of the threats that loom while browsing the web, however they have a false sense of security about the level of protection they have when using corporate devices. As a result, they are unintentionally exposing their corporate networks to a slew of vulnerabilities,” said Mark Guntrip, senior director, cybersecurity strategy at Menlo Security.
“More employees are using company-issued devices for not only work, but also personal tasks like shopping and banking, which is putting entire networks at risk of being breached. To mitigate this risky behavior, organizations must make it a priority to adopt a Zero Trust security approach to prevent cyberattacks before they happen and ensure that they’re protected if they do fall victim to bad actors.”
Workers depend on laptops, mobile devices, and the web to conduct work no matter where they’re located and many of these tasks are being done in the browser. The survey found that 76% of people (70% U.K.) spend one or more hours in a browser each day conducting work tasks.
An industry report from Forrester and Google found that business users spend 75% of their workday either working in a web browser or attending virtual meetings – which is in turn making them susceptible to hackers who lurk on the web.
Employees are aware of potential threats
Out of various online threats, malware is the most recognized in both the U.S. and U.K. (mentioned by 76% of U.S. respondents & 81% in the U.K.). This was followed by ransomware, with 61% of U.S. & U.K. respondents reporting they are aware of this threat; credential phishing at 40% U.S. & 45% U.K.; and HTML smuggling at 19% U.S. & 16% U.K. A total of 16% of respondents (12% U.K.) were not familiar with any of these cyber-attack methods.
Employees are taking some measures to protect themselves
Strong passwords were the most popular protective measure reported by respondents globally (75% U.S; 71% U.K.), and 58% of people (59% U.K.) reported they are using anti-virus software to protect themselves when shopping online.
Other protective measures include shopping only on websites of familiar retailers (55% U.S. & U.K.), confirming that URLs/emails do not have suspicious characters (43% U.S.; 37% U.K.), checking for the lock next to a URL (40% U.S.; 46% U.K.), and having a dedicated card for online shopping (28% U.S.; 20% U.K.). Only 4% (3% U.K) claim that they do not take any of these protective measures while shopping online.
Generational trends impact shopping habits
The youngest workers (18-24 years old) most often reported an increase in holiday shopping this season (76% U.S.; 79% U.K.). There was a lower percentage for each subsequent age group, with 68% (71% U.K.) for those 35-44, and only 40% (39% U.K.) for those over 65 years old. Younger generations may also be more attuned to cyber-threats, with younger groups more often reporting they have noticed an increase in scams/fraudulent messages.