Office Workers Continue to Behave Badly Despite Awareness of Cyber Threats

KUALA LUMPUR, 3 June 2015 (Wed): Blue Coat Systems, Inc., a market leader in enterprise security, has revealed the results of a global research study of 1580 respondents across 11 countries that highlighted a global trend of employees ignoring cyber risks while at work.

Survey results found that universally, workers continue to visit inappropriate websites while at work, despite typically being fully aware of the risks to their companies.

Ivan Wen, Country Manager of Blue Coat Malaysia said that the actions of employees at odds with their awareness of the growing cyber threats facing the workplace. “The dichotomy between the awareness and actions of the employees found in this research should trouble businesses all over the world. While IT professionals try to prevent cyber-attacks occurring, their colleagues’ behavior is jeopardising employers’ cyber security and ultimately their jobs,” says Wen.

The Blue Coat research shows that pornography continues to be one of the most popular methods of hiding malware or malicious content. Even though awareness is high of the threat posed by adult content sites, workers are still visiting these potentially dangerous sites. At 19 percent, China has the worst record for viewing adult content sites on a work device, with Mexico (10 percent) and the UK (nine percent) not far behind.

Across the border in Singapore 37 percent of respondents used new applications without IT’s permission, compared to 22 percent in China and Korea, and just 14 percent in Australia.

Wen adds, “In addition, this risky behavior can leave both sensitive corporate and personal data open to being stolen and used immediately, stored for future use, or sold into a thriving black market where compromised corporate and personal identities are traded globally.”

Survey Highlights

Blue Coat’s research, conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne, showed that the majority of global survey participants admitted understanding the obvious cyber threats when downloading email attachments from an unknown sender, or using social media and unapproved apps from corporate networks without permission, but knowing this, did not curb their risk-taking. Other findings include:

  • Although 65 percent of global respondents view using a new application without the IT department’s consent as a serious cyber-security risk to the business, 26 percent admitted doing so.
  • Obvious risks such as opening emails from unverified senders still happen at work. Nearly one out of three (29 percent) of Chinese employees open email attachments from unverified senders, even though nearly three out of four (72 percent) see it as a serious risk, whereas Korean (63 percent) businesses view the threat less seriously yet open far less unsolicited emails, at 11 percent.
  • Nearly two out of five employees globally (41 percent) use social media sites for personal reasons at work – a serious risk to businesses, as cyber criminals hide malware on shortened links and exploit encrypted traffic to deliver payloads.
  • While globally, six percent of respondents still admitted viewing adult content on work devices, China ranked the highest with nearly one in five (19 percent) employees admitting to viewing adult content at work, compared to Singapore and Australia at five percent and two percent respectively.


One source of cyber threats is the practice of phishing. Cyber criminals continuously conduct extensive research on employees’ social profiles to find information that can be used to attack organizations. For example, an attacker may create a seemingly personalised email targeted at an IT administrator for a large enterprise using information found on social media profiles, such as the recipient’s alma mater or favorite sports team. That email may contain malware that is downloaded once the recipient clicks on a link included in the document.

Wen ends, “The consumerisation of IT and social media carry mixed blessings to enterprises. It is no longer feasible to prevent employees from using them, so businesses need to find ways to support these technology choices while simultaneously mitigating the security risks.”

Author: Terry KS

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