Two-third of employees expose confidential data

A new study has revealed that two thirds of employees expose sensitive data outside the workplace - some even exposing highly regulated and confidential information such as customer credit card details.

The study, conducted by People Security and commissioned by 3M, indicated that most companies do not have policies or measures in place to protect sensitive information from computer screen snooping when employees are working in public places. With a recent regional study also revealing that the Middle East has witnessed a dramatic 1,825.3 per cent growth in the number of internet users in the last decade (2000 to 2010), increasing the penetration to 29.8 per cent and translating into a total of 63.2 million users, there's never been a more important time to protect your private information on laptop, netbook, desktop and smartphone screens.

"With the rise in mobile workers carrying confidential data with them outside the office, snooping is no longer a harmless hobby and may represent a weak link in corporate data security practices. Indeed, 3M's global survey revealed that 80 per cent of respondents thought that prying eyes posed a risk to their companies and 76 per cent of people were concerned about other people seeing their screens in public places. What this translates to is that people are now becoming aware that even a quick look at your screen from a roaming attacker can mean trouble for you and your business," said Ismail Mapara, Business Manager CEE and MEA for Display '&' Graphics, 3M.

The Middle East has an especially high mobile population and as its citizen's demand world class advanced technology and convenience - including video communication and remote office spaces, companies must pro-actively address their data security practices. As people use the region as a hub for business and travel, and are frequenting public establishments - such as airports, restaurants and cafes - to work at their convenience, it has become even more crucial for individuals and companies to protect their information. In fact, the study revealed that 55 per cent of working professionals used their laptops and smart phones in a high-traffic public area for at least 1 hour per week.

"Today's latest smart phones now make it possible for a data thief to take a high-resolution picture of confidential information on a computer screen and retrieve readable data without any hacking necessary. Information revealed on mobile devices outside the workplace now creates a window into a corporation's most confidential data - whether it is regulated or simply company secrets - and significantly raises the threat level of visual data breaches", said Ismail.

The popularity of smartphone ownership in the Middle East is growing steadily, with a recent study revealing penetration rates reaching 15 per cent in the UAE and 11 per cent in Saudi Arabia. And smartphone penetration is only expected to grow - by 11 per cent over the next three years in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. According to statistics recently released by intelligence firm International Data Corporation (IDC), 1.7 million smart phones were shipped to the UAE last year, a 46 per cent increase since 2009.

As this regional trend continues to evolve whereby individuals require instant access to both their personal and sensitive company information while on the go it becomes more evident that prevention measures need a top priority for organisations.

"Companies know they need to protect confidential information, but the threat of a visual data breach has historically been low on the priority list. This study should convince companies to reassess their data security policies and tools to determine how to better protect against visual data breaches when employees are working outside the office. At 3M, we address the risk of visual privacy in our Electronic Resources policy by requiring employees to take appropriate measures to protect 3M confidential information in public places by using privacy filters," said Ismail.

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