Workers Ignoring Known Cyber Risks, Surfing Adult Content and Downloading Unapproved Apps

Blue Coat Systems, Inc., a market leader in enterprise security, today revealed the results of a global research study of 1580 respondents across 11 countries that highlighted a global trend of employees ignoring cyber risks while at work. Results from the survey found that universally, workers visit inappropriate websites while at work despite typically being fully aware of the risks to their companies.

Blue Coat’s research, conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne, found the actions of employees at odds with their awareness of the growing cyber threats facing the workplace. In addition, this risky behaviour can leave both sensitive corporate and personal data open to being stolen and used immediately, stored for future use, or sold into a thriving black market where compromised corporate and personal identities are traded globally.

One source of cyber threats is the practice of phishing. Cyber criminals continuously conduct extensive research on employees’ social profiles to find information that can be used to attack organisations. For example, an attacker may create a seemingly personalised email targeted at an IT administrator for a large enterprise using information found on social media profiles, such as the recipient’s alma mater or favourite sports team. That email may contain malware that is downloaded once the recipient clicks on a link included in the document.

Pornography continues to be one of the most popular methods of hiding malware or malicious content. Even though awareness is high of the threat posed by adult content sites, workers are still visiting these potentially dangerous sites. The Blue Coat survey found that at 19 percent, China has the worst record for viewing adult content sites on a work device, with Mexico (10 percent) and the UK (nine percent) not far behind.

Survey Highlights

The majority of global survey participants admitted understanding the obvious cyber threats when downloading email attachments from an unknown sender, or using social media and unapproved apps from corporate networks without permission, but knowing this, did not curb their risk-taking. Other findings include:

  • Although 65 percent of global respondents view using a new application without the IT department’s consent as a serious cyber-security risk to the business, 26 percent admitted doing so.
  • In the UK one-third (33 percent) of respondents used new applications without IT’s permission, compared to 27 percent in Germany and just 16 percent in France.
  • Obvious risks such as opening emails from unverified senders still happen at work. One out of five UK employees open email attachments from unverified senders, even though nearly four out of five (78 percent) see it as a serious risk, whereas German (64 percent) and French (63 percent) businesses view the threat less seriously and both countries open less unsolicited emails at 16 percent each.
  • Nearly two out of five employees (41 percent) use social media sites for personal reasons at work – a serious risk to businesses, as cyber criminals hide malware on shortened links and exploit encrypted traffic to deliver payloads.
  • Whilst globally, six percent of respondents still admitted viewing adult content on work devices, the UK ranked higher with nearly one in ten (nine percent) employees admitting to viewing adult content at work, compared to France and Germany at five percent and two percent respectively.

“Whilst the majority of employees are aware of cyber security risks, in practice most still take chances,” said Robert Arandjelovic, director of products for Blue Coat, EMEA. “The consumerisation of IT and social media carry mixed blessings to enterprises. It is no longer realistic to prevent employees from using them, so businesses need to find ways to support these technology choices while simultaneously mitigating the security risks.”

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