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Vulnerabilities / Threats

5/19/2015
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Research Shows Workers Ignoring Known Cyber Risks, Surfing Adult Content and Downloading Unapproved Apps

Global Survey Highlights Disconnect Between Employee Awareness of Cyber Threats and Their Actions

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – MAY 19, 2015 – Blue Coat Systems, Inc., a market leader in enterprise security, today revealed the results of a global research study of 1580 respondents across 11 countries that highlighted a global trend of employees ignoring cyber risks while at work. Results from the survey found that universally, workers visit inappropriate websites while at work despite typically being fully aware of the risks to their companies.

Blue Coat’s research, conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne, found the actions of employees at odds with their awareness of the growing cyber threats facing the workplace. In addition, this risky behavior can leave both sensitive corporate and personal data open to being stolen and used immediately, stored for future use, or sold into a thriving black market where compromised corporate and personal identities are traded globally.

One source of cyber threats is the practice of phishing. Cyber criminals continuously conduct extensive research on employees’ social profiles to find information that can be used to attack organizations. For example, an attacker may create a seemingly personalized email targeted at an IT administrator for a large enterprise using information found on social media profiles, such as the recipient’s alma mater or favorite sports team. That email may contain malware that is downloaded once the recipient clicks on a link included in the document.

Pornography continues to be one of the most popular methods of hiding malware or malicious content. Even though awareness is high of the threat posed by adult content sites, workers are still visiting these potentially dangerous sites. The Blue Coat survey found that at 19 percent, China has the worst record for viewing adult content sites on a work device, with Mexico (10 percent) and the UK (nine percent) not far behind.

Survey Highlights

The majority of global survey participants admitted understanding the obvious cyber threats when downloading email attachments from an unknown sender, or using social media and unapproved apps from corporate networks without permission, but knowing this, did not curb their risk-taking. Other findings include:

●     Although 65 percent of global respondents view using a new application without the IT department’s consent as a serious cyber-security risk to the business, 26 percent admitted doing so.

●     In Singapore 37 percent of respondents used new applications without IT’s permission, compared to 33 percent in the UK and 30 percent in India and Mexico. On the flip side, Australia and France were the lowest offenders at 14 percent and 16 percent respectively; however, any number puts businesses at risk.

●     Obvious behaviors such as opening emails from unverified senders still happen at work. Nearly one third (29 percent) of Chinese employees open email attachments from unverified senders, even though nearly three out of four (72 percent) see it as a serious risk. US businesses view the threat even more seriously (80 percent) and open less unsolicited emails (17 percent).

●     Nearly two out of five employees (41 percent) use social media sites for personal reasons at work – a serious risk to businesses, as cyber criminals hide malware on shortened links and exploit encrypted traffic to deliver payloads.

●     Although six percent of global respondents still admitted viewing adult content on work devices, China ranked as the worst offender with nearly one in five (19 percent) employees admitting to viewing adult content at work, compared to Australia and Germany, both at two percent.

“While the majority of employees are aware of cyber security risks, in practice most still take chances,” said Dr. Hugh Thompson, CTO for Blue Coat. “The consumerization of IT and social media carry mixed blessings to enterprises. It is no longer realistic to prevent employees from using them, so businesses need to find ways to support these technology choices while simultaneously mitigating the security risks.”

About Blue Coat Systems

Blue Coat is a leader in enterprise security, providing on-premise, hybrid and cloud-based solutions for protecting web connectivity, combating advanced threats and responding to security breaches. Blue Coat is the global market leader in securing connection to the web and counts nearly 80 percent of the Global Fortune 500 as its customers. For additional information, please visit www.bluecoat.com.
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