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New Study Explores Security Risks in Office Laptop Use

August 23, 2012

Sixty-one percent of workers with office laptops say they have critical, sensitive information stored on the devices, according to a new study from CareerBuilder.

While only 26 percent of workers surveyed reported having work laptops, the study says that a significant number of those workers may be putting their company or themselves at risk by failing to secure their laptops, sharing passwords or clicking on links from unknown sources, an article from the Sacramento Bee says.

In addition to office-related data or documents, a notable percentage of workers said their laptops house a variety of personal files, pointing to:

  • Company Information: 48 percent
  • Client Information: 27 percent
  • Personal Financial Information: 18 percent
  • Other Personal Information: 18 percent

The survey also found that most workers don’t always secure that critical information:

  • 57 percent of workers don’t have a laptop security device.
  • 52 percent don’t lock their computer when they are away from their desk.
  • 25 percent have left their laptop unsecured overnight.

Higher theft rates were reported among workers ages 18 to 24 – 13 percent said they have had a work laptop stolen compared to 5 percent of all workers, the Sacramento Bee article reports.

And while half of workers reported that they memorize their passwords, 12 percent keep passwords at their desk, written on their laptop or in their computer case or purse/wallet. Others have openly discussed passwords with fellow workers, the article says.

  • 27 percent of workers reported that a co-worker gave them their password.
  • 15 percent have shared their password with a co-worker. Those age 55+ were the most likely to share passwords, while those 18 to 24 were the least likely, the survey reports.

Eighteen percent of workers access corporate email through a smartphone; 5 percent have lost their smartphone or had it stolen.

Eric Presley, Chief Technology Officer at CareerBuilder, recommends the following precautions:

  • Use hard-to-decipher passwords. Use different passwords for home and work, and never share them. Make sure mobile devices require passwords as well.
  • Never click on links or attachments from unknown sources, which put computers at risk of viruses.
  • Never leave laptops unattended. Invest in laptop security cables to lock laptops at desks and avoid leaving them in cars.
  • Keep up to date. Make sure your laptop computer’s security has the latest antivirus software.
  • Keep personal information separate. Store personal financial information and other files on your home computer.

The survey was conducted between May 14 and June 4, 2012, among 3,892 U.S. full-time workers. 

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