Survey: Accessing Corporate Data On Vacation Has Serious Implications For IT Security

With bags packed, flights booked and foreign currency in their pockets the workforce might be jetting off but they’re definitely not leaving the daily grind behind. Instead these stressed out individuals, a whopping 95 percent of our sample, will be taking their mobiles and smartphones abroad with them with the expectation of working.

That’s the remarkable findings of a survey, conducted by CREDANT Technologies amongst 1,000 office workers in the city of London, which discovered 65 percent of those questioned that plan to take a summer break overseas will remain in contact with the office, check e-mail accounts and text to ensure things stay on track during their absence. Almost half will do so at least once a day even though they should be laying back and taking a well earned break.

Although this survey was carried out among 1,000 UK city workers, CREDANT conducted a straw poll amongst office workers in both San Francisco and New York to see if the same was true for the US. Interestingly, it discovered that the results practically mirrored the UK findings and, if anything, suggested a slightly higher percentage this side of the Atlantic are working while away.

Unsurprisingly 54 percent of those that felt they had to be available while away from their desks admitted checking their emails would leave them more stressed instead of relaxed following their break. 58 percent confessed that the mechanics of remaining in contact, such as data security, caused them additional worry. 46 percent actually believe remaining in contact would leave them feeling in control and able to relax.

57 percent blamed being a work junky on the current economic climate making it important that they are reachable while away. 39 percent believe, rightly or wrongly, that their bosses actually expect to be able to contact them nowadays when taking annual leave.

Almost two thirds using valuable baggage allowance to carry laptops.

In a repeat of its study, first conducted two years ago, to measure “mobile habits, leisure and security” CREDANT has found that 64 percent of those questioned this year will take a laptop with them on their travels compared with just 33 percent in 2008. Unfortunately for those companies employing these dutiful workers a shocking 66 percent will be unencrypted and 51 percent left totally insecure without even a password for protection! Let’s hope they’re not left behind at the airport, in a café or on the beach.

“We seem to have changed to a global population of workaholics,” said Darren Shimkus, Worldwide SVP of Marketing for CREDANT Technologies. “Only 35 percent of our respondents have no contact whatsoever with work during their vacation which puts them firmly in the minority. Although on the surface this may seem like a good trend, especially for cash struck organizations, we deal with the aftermath from these industrious workers when company secrets have gone AWOL. The harsh reality is that when corporate information is accessed from a mobile device, whether it’s personal or company owned, and it’s misplaced there are consequences.

“Who’s to blame? Is it the employee who just can’t let go or the employer for making them feel that they have to be accessible in the first place? Regardless of why it’s happening and with data privacy regulations getting harsher all the time, our advice to the corporate world is don’t leave security up to your staff, do it for them, especially with the HR2221: Data Accountability and Trust Act potentially just one vote away from the President’s desk. Take the opportunity to re-evaluate your security -- especially of your mobile devices, and perhaps invest in some vacation insurance of your own.”

Two respondents spoken to during the straw poll were able to give their insight to current sentiment:

Sean Margolis, an analyst at a financial services company said; “It’s a stressful job, and even though it’s been a hard year and I deserve a break, when I’m not there it doesn’t just go away. I have to know what’s going on or I just worry about it. I don’t know why but it makes me feel much better keeping my colleagues happy and everyone off my back. You could say it’s a control thing, maybe even a perverse form of loyalty, but I’d call it self-preservation. You never know who’s got knives out for you and this way I know there’s no trouble brewing.”

Garry Short, owner of an engineering company, offered his perspective: “It’s impossible to completely switch off when away as my customers expect me to make sure things run smoothly. It’s hard enough at the moment, as I’m operating on a minimal workforce as it is, so it’s unfair to expect them to manage these complex relationships in my absence. Of course there are people in the office to take messages and monitor my email but if I didn’t keep on top of my inbox it would take two weeks once I got back to catch up. Also, could you image the repercussions to my business if something major happened and no-one could reach me – it doesn’t bear thinking about. It’s hard to relax but if I waited until I could switch off completely it’d be after I retired.”

Key Highlights :

  • 95 percent take mobiles and smartphones abroad with the expectation of working.
  • 64 percent will take a laptop abroad however 66 percent of these laptops will be unencrypted and 51 percent left totally insecure without even a password for protection.
  • 65 percent will remain in contact with the office of which nearly 50 percent will check e-mails at least once a day.
  • 57 percent blame current economic climate for being a work junky.
  • 58 percent worry about the security of the data they’ll take with them.


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