By Daniel Hunter

Workers are ignoring known cyber security risks by searching adult content and downloading unapproved apps, according to enterprise security firm Blue Coat Systems.

The global study of more than 1500 workers in 11 countries found the actions of employees at odds with their awareness of the growing cyber threats facing the workplace. In addition, this risky behaviour 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.

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%, China has the worst record for viewing adult content sites on a work device, with Mexico (10%) and the UK (9%) not far behind.

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 organisations. For example, an attacker may create a seemingly personalised 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 favourite sports team. That email may contain malware that is downloaded once the recipient clicks on a link included in the document.

“Whilst the majority of employees are aware of cyber security risks, in practice most still take chances,” said Robert Arandjelovic, director of products for Blue Coat, EMEA.

“The consumerisation 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.”