IT security policies ignored when staff work away

Many employees are flouting security policies designed to protect corporate applications and data when away from the office, and could be creating significant ‘hidden’ costs for employers, as well as showing widespread shortcomings in the enforcement of IT policies.

According to research from Vodafone UK, staff are engaging in online activities while out and about that they would not consider doing in the office. These include visiting adult sites, gambling, social networking, and dating sites, watching online video and TV, and even downloading and installing additional software.

Seven per cent of mobile workers (10 per cent of male mobile workers) admit to visiting adult sites using their company laptop or mobile device while out of the office. This contrasts to 3.8 per cent accessing these sites from a computer in the office. Nearly 19 per cent admit to downloading music, 10 per cent visited gambling sites, and nearly 15 per cent downloaded software without prior authorisation while way from the office.

These results show 'significant shortcomings in the enforcement of IT policies for mobile workers', the research suggests.

“IT departments have been successful in controlling user behaviour in the office, but struggle to maintain this control over an increasingly mobile workforce,” says Kurt Hopcins, head of enterprise mobility solutions at Vodafone UK. “Mobile workers may be accessing a video or music file over a hotel Wi-Fi or 3G network while on a business trip - the cost of these downloads are not anticipated, and may not be included in corporate price plans. In the instance of using hotel WiFi they may only be appreciated when the individual comes to check out. Even then the cost is hidden in personal expenses, making it very difficult to manage.”

The research was conducted by independent market research agency Opinion Matters in June 2008, from a sample of 1,116 UK workers.


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