By Daniel Hunter

Eight out of 10 UK consumers who use a computer, tablet PC or smartphone for work activities feel their online privacy is threatened, but many persist with actions and attitudes that put their privacy and security at risk, according to a survey of 1,000 UK office workers by global non-profit IT association ISACA.

ISACA also conducted a separate survey of more than 4,500 of its members from 83 countries, including 980 in Europe. The majority of respondents say that the risk of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) outweighs the benefits, yet year over year, but there has been a 22-point percentage drop in enterprises that prohibit BYOD. With the increasingly blurry line between work and personal devices, behaviours that put privacy and security at risk have the potential to impact enterprises.

Sharing information online is riskier than ever, say one-quarter of the respondents. And only 12% say they do not think their online privacy is threatened. Yet despite these concerns, UK consumers reported engaging in the following risky behaviour:

- 10% have clicked on links in email from people they did not know
- 16% have used the same passwords for work and shopping sites
- 20% have clicked on links from social media sites
- 23% have used their work email address for online shopping
- 8% have lost their work or personal device they used for work

Employees’ online activities pose a special challenge to employers during the holiday season, since 69% of survey participants plan to shop online during the holiday season of November and December. Of those, 27% will spend five hours or more shopping on a work device and nearly 10% will spend 10 hours or more. Additionally, 44% will spend five hours or more and 16% will spend 10 hours or more shopping on personal mobile devices also used for work–a practice called “bring your own device” (BYOD).

According to the UK consumer edition of ISACA’s 2012 IT Risk/Reward Barometer, employees who have a work-supplied or BYOD device reported:

- To save 50 percent off a £100 item, 80% would be willing to reveal personal information; 59% would give up their email address, 20% would give up the name of the street they grew up on, 17% would provide their mother’s maiden name, and 7% would even be willing to share their current social media password.

- 22% are more concerned with protecting the security of their personal devices than their work-supplied devices.

- 12% would be just as inclined to use their personal device for work purposes even if they knew their online activity could be tracked by their employer.

"Using the same password for different sites will make it easier for criminals to hack into your accounts and compromise the data held by the organisation you work for. The more personal details you share about yourself online, the more likely you are to be a victim of social engineering attacks, especially with all of the data aggregators that combine seemingly innocent pieces of data into one comprehensive picture," said Ramsés Gallego, CISM, CGEIT, CISSP, SCPM, CCSK, security strategist and evangelist at Quest Software -now part of Dell - and ISACA international vice president.

While a quarter (25%) of respondents feel that sharing information online has become riskier over the past year, 87% reported engaging in a range of potentially risky actions:

- 80% do not verify the security settings of online shopping sites.
- 22% assume their IT department is ensuring that their work-supplied device has the most recent security patches.
- 13% are not concerned that their personal online activities at work may affect their organization's IT network.
- 11% have clicked on a link in an email before confirming its authenticity.
- 9% used a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Docs for work documents without their company’s knowledge.

“The 2012 IT Risk/Reward Barometer shows that despite considerable concern about their online privacy and security, consumers are simply not willing to give up behaviour that is high-risk and could compromise their own and their employer’s cash, data and reputation,” said Marc Vael, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, an international vice president of ISACA.

“The survey shows a sizable gap between what people believe they should do and how they actually act. Given that 23% of employees in the UK now use their own personal devices for work purposes–devices over which the enterprise has limited control–companies need to advocate an embrace-and-educate approach. Embrace the technology, but provide ongoing training about the personal and enterprise risks and how to avoid them.”

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