Why are Network security guidelines so often ignored?

Martyn Warwick
By Martyn Warwick

Apr 25, 2019

© Flickr/cc-licence/YuriSamoilov

© Flickr/cc-licence/YuriSamoilov

  • A quarter of UK and US workers know them, but still ignore them
  • Pressure of work can make security an impediment to throughput
  • Millennials are cavalier in their attitudes to network security...
  • .. while Baby Boomers are much more circumspect

A new survey and research report from Symphony Communications Services, the global, secure, cloud-based, communication and content sharing platform company, shows that a quarter of UK and US workers (well 24 per cent to be accurate) routinely connect to networks they know to be insecure and 25 per cent share confidential information across collaboration platforms such as Skype and Slack.

The Symphony survey was designed to determine how many workers deliberately ignore and flout established and proven IT guidelines and why. The answers are 1) a lot and 2) because pressure to get work done quickly means employees circumvent security because it is perceived a roadblock to expeditious work throughput.

Jonathan Christensen, Chief Experience Officer at Symphony Communications comments, "The classic trade-off is that the more the security, the more clunky and cumbersome the product becomes." He adds, "Remember that in a collaboration tool, all the information transmitted is business-critical. It can be everything from financial data, HR information through to customer account information so you want to protect it end-to-end."

Of course, there are solutions to these problems and, unsurprisingly, Symphony specialises in providing them and believes that companies don't need to be forced into making a potentially dangerous trade-off between maximising work flow and ignoring best-practice network security regimes. Christensen again, "Companies need to provide better tools so people can be more effective and when security professionals look for collaboration tools, they should ask vendors whether they offer end-to-end encryption and can administer the keys locally."

Those are particularly important points because the survey shows that many workers are simultaneously blasé and yet overly optimistic about the security of collaboration tools and platforms. An astonishing 93 per cent of UK and US respondents expressed complete confidence in the inherent security of comms and data passed over collaboration and messaging platforms whilst 84 per cent said they are fairly confident that the providers of collaboration tools and platforms cannot and do not have access to the data passing over and through the networks. Oh dear.

Big differences in attitudes to security between the generations

The Symphony report also casts light onto marked difference in attitudes to network security between different generations of workers. For example, the Baby Boom generation (generally classified as being born between the mid-1940s and the mid-1960's) are  much more security -aware and careful than are the Millennials (born between the early- and mid-1980s, 1990s and on into the early 2000s).

Millennials come over are much more casual and even feckless in their attitudes to network security, exhibiting an insouciance born of early exposure to social media that has made them completely used to and jaundiced about sharing information across apps and platforms - both in their private lives and at work.

Thus, the report finds, Millennials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to share confidential information over messaging and collaboration apps, three times more likely to download sensitive info or intellectual property from their companies and twice as likely to badmouth their company and its top executives over messaging and collaboration platforms.

What's more, Millennials are three times more likely to share company credit card or password information, twice as likely to gossip about and diss co-workers, and Twice as likely to download comms apps not approved by the IT department.

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are twice as likely as Millennials never to have been involved in any of the Top Ten riskiest network security behaviours, twice are likely never to have discussed non-work-related matters via messaging and collaboration platforms and are twice as sceptical as Millennials when it comes to believing that the networks they use are secure and that solutions vendors (and others) cannot and do not eavesdrop on their communications.

As an ageing and far from babyish Baby Boomer myself I know from painful experience where my sympathies lie.

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