As U.S. businesses shift from desktop to laptop or other mobile computing devices, workers are increasingly exposing their employers to information security risks. According to a nationwide survey of nearly 3,900 full-time, non-governmental employees conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of CareerBuilder, 26 percent of workers reported having office laptops – and 61 percent of those laptop users said they stored critical, sensitive information on their devices.
When asked to identify the type of sensitive information that can be found on their office computers, workers with laptops reported the following breakdown:
- Company information – 48 percent
- Client information – 27 percent
- Personal financial information – 18 percent
- Other personal information – 18 percent
The survey, conducted online between May 14 and June 4, 2012, found most workers don't always lock down critical information:
- 57 percent of workers don't have a laptop security device.
- 52 percent don't lock their computer when they're away from their desk.
- 25 percent have left their laptop unsecured overnight.
Higher theft rates were reported among workers ages 18 to 24. Thirteen percent of respondents in this age group said they have had a work laptop stolen, compared to 5 percent of all workers.
While half of surveyed workers reported they memorize their security passwords, 12 percent keep their passwords at their desk, written on their laptop or in their computer case or purse/wallet. Others have openly discussed their passwords with fellow workers.
- 27 percent of workers reported that a co-worker gave them their password.
- 15 percent have shared their password with a co-worker. Those age 55 and older were the most likely to share passwords, while those 18 to 24 were the least likely.
In addition, 18 percent of surveyed workers said they access corporate email through a smartphone; 5 percent said they have lost their smart phone or had it stolen.
"Laptops and mobile devices are quickly becoming the preferred technologies for many businesses," said Eric Presley, chief technology officer at CareerBuilder. "It's important for employers and workers alike to take precautions to reduce vulnerabilities and keep company information secure."
Presley shared the following tips to pass along to mobile device users:
- Use hard-to-decipher passwords. Use a different password for home and work and don't share them with anyone. Make sure your mobile phone requires a password as well.
- Never click on links or attachments from unknown sources. There's a good chance there may be a virus lurking behind the scenes.
- Don't leave your laptop unattended. Invest in a laptop security cable and lock your laptop when you're away from your desk. Avoid leaving your laptop in your car.
- Keep up to date. Make sure your laptop computer's security has the latest antivirus software to stave off thieves.
Keep personal information separate. Store personal financial information and other files on your home computer.