UK employees rank highest in Europe for “risky” online behaviour on work devices

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British employees are leaving their companies at risk from cyber crime by visiting inappropriate websites, opening emails from unknown senders and downloading apps despite knowing the risks – research by enterprise security firm Blue Coat Systems has found.

The study, conducted with 1580 respondents from 11 countries, found that the UK ranked highest in Europe for viewing adult content on work devices at 9%, followed by France (5%) and Germany (2%).

One in five British workers also open emails from unverified senders, even though 78% said they knew it posed a serious risk.

Comparitively, Germany and France see the threat less seriously at 64% and 63% respectively, but open fewer potentially risky emails at 16% each. The report also found that 33% of UK respondents download new applications without their IT department’s permission, against figures of 27% in Germany and 16% in France.

Such behaviour can lead to sensitive data being stolen, sold to the black market and traded globally. Many cyber criminals engage in phishing, a practice that involves conducting extensive research on employees to find information that can be used to attack organisations.

Robert Arandjelovic, director of products for Blue Coat, commented: “The dichotomy between the awareness and actions of the employees found in this research should trouble businesses all over the world. While IT professionals seek to prevent cyber-attacks occurring, their colleagues’ behavior is jeopardising employers’ cyber security and ultimately their jobs.

“The consumerisation of IT and social media carry mixed blessings to enterprises. It is no longer feasible to prevent employees from using them, so businesses need to find ways to support these technology choices while simultaneously mitigating the security risks.”