Mobile Workers Undo Security Measures

Wednesday Sep 5th 2007 by Andy Patrizio
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Trend Micro reports that mobile workers seem less wary of Internet security threats than their desktop-bound counterparts.

Savvy small business owners often go through all kinds of headaches to secure their company computers, only to have their employees undermine everything with foolish out-of-the-office behavior. That's the conclusion of a new report by antivirus vendor Trend Micro.

The more mobile an employee is, the more likely he is to send confidential information via instant messaging or Web mail, the report found. These are points of weakness that even the most locked-down of laptops can't block. They also engage in risky online behavior such as visiting social networks or downloading movies.

In the U.S., 58 percent of respondents with access to the Internet outside the company network admitted to sending confidential information by Webmail, such as Google's Gmail or Yahoo Mail.

The risky business approach isn't limited to the U.S., either. Trend Micro found similar behavior in Europe and Japan, as well. Respondents from Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. all admitted to downloading files and movies and visiting social networks while on the company network.

In Japan, desktop workers were worse; 60 percent admitted to downloading executable files, compared with only 49 percent of mobile workers.

Trend Micro found that mobile employees are often more technically savvy and better educated regarding security threats. For example, 61 percent of mobile employees in the U.S. are aware of Web threats like phishing compared to 49 percent of desktop-bound employees.

The study "indicates just how important those mediums [IM and Webmail] have become for business communication and that simply blocking access to those communication channels is no longer a feasible option for many companies," said Dmitri Alperovitch, principal research scientist for Secure Computing, in a statement.

He was a little bothered by the fact that even though mobile employees are more aware of Web threats than their non-mobile counterparts, they are still more likely to download executable files while on a company network. "This shows that security education is still lacking in many countries and for as long as that is the case, security technologies will remain the first and last line of defense," he said.

Natalie Lambert, senior analyst for client security at Forrester Research, wasn't surprised at the results. "I sat next to a guy on an airplane today who was complaining that his company prevents him from going to 'smut' sites. He was upset about it!" she said.

On a more serious note, she added: "Unfortunately, we are not seeing enough companies increasing the security protections on their mobile employees. There are still many companies that only deploy AV to all machines. I spend much of my time talking to organizations about the multi-layered protections they need on their laptops, not just their network."

Adapted from internetnews.com.

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