Cyber-Security Risks Increase with Vacation Time

cyber-security on summer vacation

With the Northern Hemisphere summer vacation period upon us, there is a new concern that organizations must address in the ongoing cyber-security battlefield.

T-Systems the corporate IT and cyber-security arm of Deutsche Telekom, is warning organisations of the security risks associated with allowing employees to work while on their summer holiday.

Where employees absolutely must interrupt their summer vacation to email and work remotely, T-Systems says it is essential those employees have had recent cyber-security training, or they risk compromising business security and confidentiality.

Scott Cairns, the UK head of cyber-security at T-Systems, said:

“Time away from our hectic work life should be treasured, not spoilt by an expectation we will respond to work emails and requests. Putting aside the impact on our families, this practice also creates a real cyber-security threat for organisations.

“Our research shows a third of employees use free Wi-Fi at locations such as those at airports, hotels, coffee shops and bars, despite these being unsecure and open to communication interception by cyber criminals. Couple this with the widespread practice of employees emailing documents to their private email on their own devices, where security is invariably lower, and you open your organisation to potential attacks.

“Our message to businesses for the holiday season is ‘let your employees enjoy an uninterrupted break’. Strongly discourage them from taking work on holiday, and make sure employees do not feel pressured to work when they should be taking time out.

“Where it is unavoidable, businesses should ensure there is training, and clear guidelines to be followed. This training is particularly important, as our research shows many employees are not knowledgeable on the multitude of ways their devices can be infected with viruses and malware… and those who thought they were ‘very knowledgeable’ frequently gave the wrong answer when questioned!”

Scott Cairns added: “We’ve already begun to see the financial impact these malware attacks have had on multinationals in 2017, including Reckitt Benckiser and Mondelez (the maker of Cadbury chocolate).  Reckitt disclosed to the Financial Times this month that it expected sales would be hit by an estimated £110m this year as a direct result.

“Employees can be an easy scapegoat for poor corporate cyber-security practice, however many do not receive adequate training from their employer. Our research found that despite the pace at which cyber-attacks are evolving, 66% of respondents had received no up-to-date education within the past twelve months. Nearly 30% of respondents say they have never had cyber security education at any employer.

“Training your employees regularly on effective cyber-security practice is probably the single-most effective step organisations can undertake to dramatically reduce their risks of viruses, malware and other common forms of cyber-crime.”

T-Systems’ research was conducted by respected market research agency Censuswide into over 2,000 UK employees.  Its findings include:

  • Nearly a third of employees (31%) use free Wi-Fi hotspots, and nearly a quarter (24%) use them for work-related emails and documents.  These are a big danger area as they are insecure and easy for hackers to clone (getting access to all email and web traffic, including any work documents and passwords)
  • 28% of employees email work documents to and from their personal email, despite this creating numerous security problems.
  • 10% use free USB charging points at airports and stations.  These ports can be used to transfer viruses and malware to unsuspecting users
  • The blame, however, cannot solely be placed on the employees, remarkably 28% of employees have never in their working career had any cyber security training to protect themselves and their employer, as you can see the threats are avoidable

Cyber-security training for all employees is particularly important as the dangers continue when employees come home from holiday.  T-Systems’ research found that:

  • 18% of employees admit to connecting their digital camera to their work computer to download photos.  And don’t think that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections are safer, viruses and malware can just as easily transfer through wireless connections and then quickly spread through the organisation.
  • 15% admit to connecting USB sticks and memory cards that they share with their family members to their work computer.  A sure way for viruses to quickly spread from home to business.

Security concerns are, perhaps, a very good reason for holidays to really be a true break away from work for the benefit of both employees and the businesses they work for.

You can read more on security issues here.

Carlos Casanova

Carlos Casanova

Carlos Casanova is an internationally known speaker, IT architect, leadership advisor, and co-author of The CMDB Imperative. He has over two decades of hands-on experience guiding CIOs and Sr. Leadership to achieve effective IT operations and improve ROI from infrastructure investments. His expansive experience enables him to quickly assess their true needs and achieve better business outcomes. He takes the complexity out of today's cluttered IT and business environments to simplify their goals in order to accelerate achievement and success.