Security Market Segment LS
Wednesday, 28 October 2020 10:44

Using company devices for personal matters for remote working poses security risks, says email security vendor


Australians are using work tools, including company-issued devices for personal matters, to a greater extent than their global counterparts while remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research which labels the behaviour as a security risk.

The State of Email Security 2020 research report by email security vendor Mimecast found that 73% of respondents globally extensively use their company-issued device for personal matters, with nearly two-thirds (60%) admitting to an increase in frequency since starting to work remote, with the most common activities involving checking personal email (47%), carrying out financial transactions (38%) and online shopping (35%).

In comparison, 78% of Australian respondents are using work tools for personal matters more than other nations, with 53% reporting an increase in personal usage during COVID-19.

And while personal email (53%) and financial transactions (51%) ranked highly locally, social media (40%) was the third most common Australian activity, above shopping (38%).

Australian respondents surveyed by Mimecast averaged almost 2.4 hours of personal activity on their work devices a day (higher than the global average of 1.9 hours), with almost a third (30%, compared with 22% globally) clocking more than 3 hours of non-work-related screen time.

According to the report, personal email and browsing the web/shopping online were already two areas of major concern for IT professionals, with 77% of Australian respondents saying there was a risk to checking personal email as the cause of a serious security mistake, and 70% thought surfing the web or online shopping could likely cause an incident.

“Encouragingly, 97% of Australian respondents claim to be aware that links in email, on social media sites and on websites can potentially infect their devices,” says Mimecast.

“Seventy-one percent have even received special cybersecurity awareness training related to working from home during the pandemic, which is higher than the global average of 64%.

“However, this doesn’t always translate into putting this knowledge into practice. Over a third (35%) of Australian respondents admitted to opening emails that they considered to be suspicious. Thirty-eight per cent admitted to not reporting suspicious emails to their IT or security teams,” Mimecast notes.

“This research shows that while there is a lot of awareness training offered, most of training content and frequency is completely ineffective at winning the hearts and minds of employees to reduce today’s cyber security risks,” said Josh Douglas, vice president of threat intelligence.

“Better training is crucial to avoid putting any organisation at risk. Employees need to be engaged, and trainings need to be short, visual, relevant and include humour to make the message resonate. In fact, Mimecast has found that end-users who have taken Mimecast Awareness Training are 5.2 times less likely to click on dangerous links. Awareness training can’t be just another check-the-box activity if you want a security conscious organisation.”

According to Mimecast, despite being the most tech savvy generation, younger workers may be putting organisations at greater risk.

“Surprisingly almost 60% of the 16-24 age group globally admitted to opening emails even though they looked suspicious, with young Australians faring slightly better at 50 percent,” Mimecast said.

“This group is also more guilty of blurring the lines between their business and personal usage of these devices. Eighty-seven per cent of the Australian 16-24 age group reported using their issued devices for personal use, while 58% of the older – 55+ – group admitted the same.”

“Security professionals need to ensure their organisation isn’t growing more exposed as threats evolve to better target the unsuspecting,” commented Douglas.

“With everyone’s home becoming their new office, classroom and place of residence, it’s not really a surprise that employees are using their company-issued devices for personal use. However, this is also a big opportunity for threat actors to target victims in new ways. We’ve seen attacks become more aggressive and the attack surface has expanded due to the new ‘WFH’ or hybrid work environments.”

The research also revealed how habits differ between males and females, with 78% of men using their corporate device for personal business versus 65% of women.

Data for the Mimecast report was collected by Censuswide in September 2020 with more than 1,000 respondents from organisations in Australia, the United Kingdom, United States (US), South Africa, Netherlands, Germany, Canada and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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