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Understanding Remote Worker Security: A Survey of User Awareness vs. Behavior
To study remote worker behavior, Cisco Systems commissioned InsightExpress, a third-party market research firm, to survey end users
from a variety of industries. The surveys were conducted in parallel in 10 countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, India, Australia, and Brazil. More than 1,000 remote workers were surveyed. The survey revealed that most remote workers believe they are working securely, yet they continue to engage in risky online behavior.
Online shopping: Nearly 40 percent of remote workers in the same respondent pool said they use their work computers for Internet shopping. Half said they make personal online purchases because their “company does not mind them doing so.”
Sharing computers: 21 percent of users admitted that they allowed others to use their work computers. More than one in four stated that they “don’t see anything wrong with it.” And believed computer sharing “does not increase security risks.”
Risky wireless behavior: One in 10 users surveyed stated that they have used a neighbor’s Internet connection when working remotely. Most stated they did so because “they were in a bind.” 18 percent stated that “my neighbor doesn’t know, so it is OK.”
Personal devices: Almost half reported that they used their own personal devices to access corporate resources. Yet only half of those who used these devices said they had antivirus or security software on the devices.
E-mail downloading: 10 to 20 percent of users in India and Brazil admitted to opening unknown e-mail messages and their attachments. 38 percent of users reported that they click on unknown e-mail messages but do not open attachments.
Although remote workers understand the importance of security, their behavior suggests that IT should improve efforts to educate and collaborate with users. By actively encouraging two-way communication with end users, IT can take an important step toward a more comprehensive security strategy.
In today’s increasingly globalized business environment, organizations of all sizes are becoming more distributed. They rely more than ever on remote workers, and for good reason. A mobile workforce can respond to customers more quickly, be more productive and agile, and enjoy better job satisfaction. Whether it’s a salesperson on the road, a doctor at home, or a PR manager in a coffee shop, organizations are enabling their employees to work anywhere, at any time, and in any way—all to generate competitive advantages and greater productivity.
Despite the benefits to businesses, a remote workforce poses security risks. Telecommuters use everything from notebook PCs to handheld PDAs to access their networks, and they frequently use wireless connections in public places. Wherever they go, they carry the access to their companies’ data, not to mention their own personal information. Because they are working independently and outside of centralized, physically secure offices, teleworkers and mobile employees are vulnerable to network threats that are less common inside an office. What’s more, remote workers are often the first to contend with new security threats and therefore are often the sources of network breaches. Even a single security incident involving a remote worker can ripple quickly throughout the rest of an organization.
Companies have placed their most-critical business processes on the network, and a breach in security can quickly escalate into lost time and money, compromised data, reduced productivity, or diminished customer confidence. Security for remote workers is critical not only for a company’s day-to-day operations, but also for network resilience planning. As organizations become more aware of the need for disaster recovery strategies, they need to be especially cognizant of remote workers’ behavior. Understanding exactly how remote
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