British Businesses Must Respond to 21st Century Working Practices

New research launched today by global IT solutions and services provider, Dimension Data, has uncovered a serious gap in many businesses’ security policies with mobile workers ‘left to their own devices’ when it comes to security.

The research amongst British workers who use computers to do their job reveals that over a third (35%) say responsibility for IT security is left up to the individual employee when they are outside the workplace, with 5% of workers stating that no one is responsible for IT security when they are not in the office.

This, coupled with the fact that just over half of workers that use a PC at work (54%) are using technology in order to work remotely, reveals an enormous security risk to businesses. For example, a recent study presented at Harvard University Privacy Symposium shows that 73% of companies have had a loss of data in the past two years, mainly due to the transfer of information to mobile devices.

With twenty-first century office workers engaging in increasingly flexible working practices – just over half of respondents (51%) access company information from home and 33% do the same from public places – it is important that employers recognise the risks this poses and bring security policies in line with today’s mobile workforce. Also, outside of the obvious threats from lax IT security, with compliance biting deeper, organisations will be under increasing pressure to control where their data is and audit its access and usage.

One of the key ongoing issues with IT security is end-user education. This is only amplified for a mobile workforce with employers setting the tone when it comes to the perception of the importance of security outside the office.

Dimension Data’s research shows that mobile workers do not always think about security when they are outside the office environment, with just over one third of workers (32%) sharing the computer they use for work purposes with at least one other person in their household.

Alongside this, just over a quarter of British workers (26%) copy data onto mobile devices for work at least once per week, posing a real risk of business or client information simply ‘going missing’. Increasingly simple technology makes it quick and easy to copy information onto different mobile devices for transportation, and this ease of use can translate into flippancy when it comes to security.

For example, 40% of British workers that use a PC at work regularly use USB sticks for moving data, potentially without awareness of the security threats this poses. USB sticks are not only small and easy to physically lose, they are also susceptible to viruses and are inherently insecure devices that rely on end-user knowledge on file protection to make them secure.

Alastair Broom, Line of Business Director – Security at Dimension Data, comments: “Our research clearly shows that end-user education has a long way to go with almost a fifth (18%) of British workers revealing their work passwords to at least one other person, highlighting an entrenched lack of understanding of the importance of workplace security. This, coupled with the fact that nearly a quarter (21%) of UK workers say that their organisation’s security policy is not communicated very well or non existent, shows that British businesses have a big job on their hands to ensure that both their clients and themselves have sufficient IT security protection and control over their data.”