Convenience Trumps Security Policy for 90% of Workers

Written by

Most workers put convenience ahead of security policies, according to research from CEB—with 90% of them admitting to ignoring them when they feel they have to.

Almost two-thirds of employees report regularly using personal technologies for work, primarily for the sake of convenience. For example, most workers confess to sending a file from their company computer to a personal email account so they can work while not in the office.

"Employees will often work around controls—especially ones they feel are onerous—as a way to make their job easier," said Brian Lee, Data Privacy practice leader, CEB. "This 'rationalized noncompliance' can not only increase privacy risks, but even jeopardize corporate strategy and ultimately growth. Establishing a more balanced approach to information governance—one that complements technological controls with prudent and relevant privacy policies that employees can easily follow—will allow companies to effectively use the information they collect and protect against a damaging data breach."

Due to the advent of cloud-based productivity tools and the increase in collaboration between employees, more data is changing hands and leaving company-controlled networks than ever before—meaning that employees are putting more sensitive data at risk than ever before.

The costs to this are significant: CEB found that the average Fortune 1000 company already spends more than $400,000 notifying customers and employees of privacy failures each year, and that's only for the failures that are reported. In fact, 45% of internal privacy failures are caused by intentional but non-malicious employee actions.

"While spending on information security has dramatically increased over the last decade, companies are overlooking a bigger cause of breaches—employee behavior," said Lee. "Investing in technology to improve security is essential, however organizations also need to ensure that employees are doing their part to protect sensitive information."

Most employees do not want to willingly violate security policies, but the reality is that they’re sometimes forced into doing so.

"I do not find it surprising that employees violate data breach policies, because I have indeed been in the same situation,” said Mike Ahmadi, global director, Critical Systems Security, Synopsys Software Integrity Group. “In one case the IT department simply did not have any failure mode in place to compensate for instances where the policies caused a halt in workflow, due to any of a number of reasons. I was still expected to get the job done, and the lower-level IT support staff would often suggest the workaround.”

He added, “The business world penalizes lost productivity and does not reward employees who use the excuse, ‘I was following the data loss policy guidelines.’ Unless usability remains stable and workflow is not hindered, employees at all levels will violate these policies."

A similar 2015 survey conducted by Balabit showed a full 69% of employees as being willing to bypass security for expediency.

“Today's 90% number—although conducted among a different target group—marks significant increase in just a year,” said Zoltán Györko, CEO at Balabit. “So in other words, while hackers are getting more malicious and creative in their approaches, organizations may be becoming more complacent. Both trends are moving in the wrong direction."

photo © Bosnian

What’s hot on Infosecurity Magazine?