Workers in dangerous cybersecurity practices

Tech Reporter

Many employees are aware of cyber security risks and policies, but are not changing their behaviour.

  Nearly two thirds of remote workers in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya say they are conscious of their organisation’s cybersecurity policies since the lockdown began. However, according to a new study from Trend Micro, lockdown does not necessarily apply to employee cybersecurity habits and risky behaviours persist.

  The study, which included over 13 000 remote workers across 27 countries, including 508 respondents from South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, on their attitudes towards corporate cybersecurity and IT policies, indicates that there has never been a better time for companies to take advantage of heightened employee cybersecurity awareness to crack down on bad habits.

  But with 93% of remote workers claiming to take instructions from their IT team seriously, 89% agreeing that workplace cybersecurity is partly their responsibility, and 50% acknowledging that using non-work applications on a corporate device is a security risk, further education does not appear to be the answer.

  Despite this apparent understanding, large numbers of employees still admit to dangerous cybersecurity practices.

  For example, 17% confessed to using a non-work application on a corporate device, and over a third (34%) said they had uploaded corporate data to that application.

  Meanwhile 34% of remote workers say they use their work laptop for personal browsing, and only 38% fully restrict the sites they visit. Concern is that over a third, 34%, are likely break corporate security policy, by accessing business data from a personal device.

  Examining the results in more detail, evidence shows that such behaviour is more a case of attitude than ignorance. 

  Over 24% of remote workers said they don’t give much thought to whether the apps they use are sanctioned by IT or not, because they just want the job done. And one in five (17%) spoke about “getting away” with using a non-work application as the solutions provided by their company are rubbish.

  Cyberpsychology academic at UK’s Edge Hill University, Dr Linda Kaye says there is a great number of individual differences across the workforce. 

  “This can include individual employee’s values, accountability within their organisation, as well as aspects of their personality, all of which are important factors which drive people’s behaviour.

To develop more effective cybersecurity training and practices, more attention should be paid to these factors. This, in turn, can help organisations adopt more tailored or bespoke cybersecurity training with their employees, which may be more effective,” Kaye says.

  The vice-president of sub-Saharan Africa’s Trend Micro, Indi Siriniwasa, says: “In today’s interconnected world, unashamedly ignoring cybersecurity guidance is no longer a viable option for employees. So, it’s encouraging to see that so many take the advice from their corporate IT team seriously.”

   Siriniwasa adds that there are individuals who are either blissfully ignorant, or worse who think cybersecurity is not applicable to them, and will regularly flouter the rules.

  “Hence having a one-size-fits-all security awareness programme is a non-starter as diligent employees often end up being penalised. A tailored training programme designed to cater for employees may be more effective,” Siriniwasa says.

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