One person in four risks sharing confidential work-related info: study

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A new survey carried out by security awareness platform KnowBe4 Research revealed that nearly a quarter of employees are unsure whether the information they are working with is confidential or not.

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KnowBe4 Research investigates the IT security culture of companies worldwide. They carry out surveys to see how companies and organizations handle IT security and training.

Results showed that 24 percent are unsure whether the information they are working with is confidential or not. This means that information that ought not to be shared with others outside the organization risks leaking out, without the employees being aware of the hazard.

“Managers have a responsibility to train their staff to treat the information they are working with in a good way. That as many as a quarter of employees are unsure about this indicates a considerable failing in many companies,” said said KnowBe4 Research director Kai Roer. 

If confidential information falls into the wrong hands, it could harm the company in a variety of ways, the study said. Some information could be market sensitive, some could impact the organization’s reputation or breach data privacy regulations, while leaked log-in information could give cybercriminals access to business-critical internal systems, it added.

There are considerable differences between different business sectors, the survey said. In the construction, education, transport, and retail sectors, as many as 34–35 percent said they are unsure about the status of the information they are working with.

In banking and finance, on the other hand, the proportion is down at 16 percent.

“We also see the same tendency in the annual security culture report. Sectors like banking and finance are, on the whole, more used to dealing with confidential information and probably have better routines and procedures for this. We see a clear link between the various aspects of security culture. The organizations that do well in one area, generally also do well in other areas. Unfortunately, IT security is equally important for everyone, regardless of business sector. This has been demonstrated by a series of cyberattacks in Norway over the past year,” said Roer.

Many workplaces include non-disclosure agreements, specifying what can and cannot be shared, in their employees’ employment contracts, the study noted.

“These figures indicate that the issue has generally not been properly explained to or followed up with employees. When someone starts a new job, they are given access to a lot of information. It is the manager’s responsibility to follow up and ensure that their employees are confident in their role and know how to handle the information they encounter. It is equally important to ensure that employees handle confidential information correctly as time goes on. It is not enough just to provide training when people join the organization,” said Roer. 

Constant follow-up and training in the practice of IT security is needed to refresh employees’ awareness and keep them up to date with the latest developments, the study stressed.

“Cybercriminals are working constantly to develop more cunning methods of attack. In addition, things can happen within the company to change the situation, which employees must be made aware of,” said Roer. 

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