Employees putting your data security at risk?

Odds are good that they are, according to the latest research.

More employees are ignoring data security policies and engaging in online activities that could put their employer at risk, according to a survey released by Ponemon Institute. Even more worrisome is knowing that they’re doing it even if they understand it’s wrong.

The top data security offenses include copying secure data to USB drives or disabling security settings on mobile devices like laptops. Some employees admit to losing USB sticks that stored confidential corporate data, but failed to report it to the company immediately, the report said.

Almost 31% of employees surveyed said they also engaged in social-networking activities from work computers. More than half (53%) said they downloaded personal software on company computers, heightening the risk of infecting the corporate network with malicious software.

Mobile technologies that let employees do more while on the road are contributing to the issue, said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute, in a blog entry. As the use of mobile devices grows, the inability to enforce data security policies could increase the possibility of data breaches. "I'm seeing a confluence of conditions that appear to be contributing to this challenge to data integrity," he said. (PC World)

Negligent online activity puts not only data security at risk, but could also be putting the company’s reputation in a vulnerable position. Remember the Domino’s incident?

About 60% of corporate executives feel they have the right to know how employees portray themselves and their organizations in online social networks, according to the Deloitte LLP Ethics & Workplace survey. However, most employees (53%) say their activity on social networks should be none of their employers’ business.

Whether it’s your data security or corporate reputation you’re looking to protect, having a sound social media policy is your first line of defense. We’re all adults here, but once in a while we all need a friendly reminder of what it means to be responsible online.

Social media policies will differ from company to company, but they all share a few key points: understanding what unacceptable online behavior is, being mindful of the business’ image, using good judgement and knowing that employees represent of the company.

For more help on developing a social media policy, read these past posts:

Bosses concerned over employees’ online behavior, employees say “butt out”

Domino’s employees fired, charged after “gross” video goes viral

The impact of social media on corporate culture

Dangers of using social networking sites to screen applicants

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