Study Shows 67% of Employees Expose Sensitive Data Outside the Workplace

IDC, an IT analyst firm, estimates that the mobile worker population could reach 1.3 billion by 2015, meaning, they access workplace data outside the workplace. This is risky because it exposes data to hackers.

2DIn fact, the safety of what’s displayed on the computer screen in public is of huge concern. The 3M Visual Data Breach Risk Assessment Study provides some troubling findings.

First off, 67 percent of workers expose company data beyond the workplace, including very sensitive information. Typically, the employee has no idea how risky this is. It’s as easy as the crook capturing data, that’s displayed on a screen, with a smartphone camera as he passes by or secretly looks on continuously from nearby.

And there’s little corporate policy in place to guard against this. The study says that 70 percent of professional employees admitted their company lacked any explicit policy on conducting business in public. And 79 percent reported that their employer didn’t even have a policy on privacy filter use.

Either communication about policies with employees is feeble, or attention to visual policy from the decision makers is lacking.

An increasing number of people are taking their online work to public places, but if they knew that company data was properly protected from roving snoops, they’d be more productive. Companies need to take more seriously the issue of visual privacy and this includes equipping employees with tools of protection. Below are more findings.

Type of Data Handled in Public

  • Internal financials: 41.77%
  • Private HR data: 33.17%
  • Trade secrets: 32.17%
  • Credit card numbers: 26.18%
  • SSNs: 23.94%
  • Medical data: 15.34%

Only three percent of the respondents said that there were restrictions imposed on some corporate roles working in public. Eleven percent didn’t even know what their employer’s policy was.

One way to make headway is a privacy filter because it blocks the lateral views of computer screens. Eighty percent of the people in the study said they’d use a device with a filter.

Another factor is that of enlightening workers about the whole issue. An enlightened employee is more likely to conduct public online business with their back to a wall.

Additional Results

  • In general, work is not allowed in public: 16%
  • No explicit policy on public working: 70%
  • To the worker, privacy is very important: 70%; somewhat important: 30%; not very important: 4%; not important at all: 1%.
  • Only 35 percent of workers opted to use a kiosk machine with a privacy filter when presented with two machines: one with and one without the privacy filter.

The study concludes that businesses are sadly lacking in security tactics relating to data that’s stored, transmitted, used and displayed. This is a weak link in the chain of sensitive information. Any effective IT security strategy needs to address this issue and take it right down the line to the last employee.

Robert Siciliano is a Privacy Consultant to 3M discussing Identity Theft and Privacy on YouTube. Disclosures.