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Risky business: Majority of workers take cybersecurity shortcuts despite knowing dangers

By Shannon Williams
Fri 30 Jul 2021

Workers are engaging in risky behaviours which could put their company's digital security at risk, despite knowing the dangers, according to new research. 

The global survey, from ThycoticCentrify, polled workers from around the world to discover if they are following good cybersecurity practices.

The results make for concerning reading, particularly when considered in the wider context of remote or hybrid working. The survey found that 79% of respondents have engaged in one least one risky activity over the past year (Australia/NZ 83%, Singapore/Malaysia 81%, India 90%, Japan 67%). 

This included:

  • 35% who saved passwords in their browser in the last year 
  • (Australia/NZ 43%, Singapore/Malaysia 36%, India 39%, Japan 28%)
  • 32% who used one password to access multiple sites 
  • (Australia/NZ 42%, Singapore/Malaysia 37%, India 33%, Japan 24%), and
  • 23% who connected a personal device to the corporate network 
  • (Australia/NZ 25%, Singapore/Malaysia 29%, India 36%, Japan 13%)

Despite almost all respondents (98%) having an awareness that individual actions such as clicking on links from unknown sources or sharing credentials with colleagues is a risk, only 16% of respondents feel their organisation is at a very high risk of a cybersecurity attack (Australia/NZ 15%, Singapore/Malaysia 23%, India 22%, Japan 35%).

This feeling was contradicted by the 79% of respondents who saw an increase in the number of fraudulent and phishing messages in the last year (Australia/NZ 75%, Singapore/Malaysia 89%, India 94%, Japan 71%).

"People working in the cybersecurity sector know how their colleagues should behave when it comes to keeping their devices safe and protecting the wider company. But are these messages getting through?," says Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and advisory CISO at ThycoticCentrify.

"We'd urge employers to redouble efforts to encourage the best possible digital security practices in staff and remind them of the risks of failing to secure networks," he says.

"A ransomware attack or major breach has major consequences that can last for years, so every organisation needs to establish security processes and work to ensure they resonate with employees."

Just 44% of respondents received cybersecurity training in the past year (Australia/NZ 43%, Singapore/Malaysia 54%, India 64%, Japan 37%). This meant that more than half of the employees surveyed were left to cope alone with the fearsome threat landscape created by home working. Smaller organisations were the least likely to have given their staff cybersecurity training over the past year.

"Remote or hybrid working also poses a particular challenge to security, so organisations should be sure to embed good practices in their staff no matter where they are working from," says Carson.

Staff are more likely to rate the cyber risk to their organisation as high (55% compared to 43%) if they have been trained, indicating they have a better understanding of the risks.

Additional Key Findings

SMBs at higher risk

  • People working in SMBs are least likely to have received cybersecurity training in the past year.
  • Just under half (47%) of those who work at companies with more than 5,000 employees underwent training in the last 12 months compared to 20% of employees at companies with less than 10 staff and 32% at organisations with between 11 to 50 employees.
  • Those at smaller companies perceive their risk to be lower, with just 37% of employees at organisations with 1-10 employees saying there is a high risk, compared with 50% at organisations with more than 100 employees.
  • Smaller companies were also least likely to have implemented protection such as multi factor authentication (MFA) or Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) compared to larger organisations.

Personal Responsibility for Security

The survey revealed an overarching sense of responsibility among employees, with 86% agreeing that they have a personal responsibility to ensure they do not expose their organisation to cyberthreats (Australia/NZ 90%, Singapore/Malaysia 95%, India 89%, Japan 80%), and 51% saying they still think IT departments should have sole responsibility to protect companies (Australia/NZ 50%, Singapore/Malaysia 70%, India 69%, Japan 35%).

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