Mobile Workforce Presents Data Concerns

December 6, 2010 ( - A study performed by People Security under a research grant from 3M found that 67% of working professionals had worked with some type of sensitive data outside the confines of the office within the past year.

According to the Visual Data Breach Risk Assessment Study, nearly three quarters (73.4%) of working professionals surveyed were able to access corporate email via the Web on a non-corporate laptop. In addition, the study found 70% of working professionals surveyed work for companies that have no explicit policies governing working outside of the office.   

The report noted that much of the data protection efforts by enterprises and government entities have been focused on data storage and transmission, leaving the area of visual privacy (the protection of data that is displayed) under-addressed. According to the survey, data security practices such as using VPN access(46%), disk encryption software (38%) and two-factor authentication (19%) were all more commonly used to protect against breaches compared to the use of on-screen computer privacy filters (13%).  

In addition to its survey of 800 working professionals, at a large IT conference, People Security conducted an experiment by offering attendees free internet kiosks, some equipped and some not equipped with privacy filters. A quarter of users (26%) accessed corporate email from the machines, representing a significant risk as the kiosk was specifically arranged so that screens were highly visible to other attendees passing by, the report said.  

Also, only 35% of kiosk users chose the machines with privacy filters, even though 80% of survey respondents said they would choose the privacy filter equipped machine in similar circumstances. Of the 35% of people that chose the privacy filter equipped machines, 18% accessed corporate email, while among the 65% of people that chose machines without privacy filters, 37% accessed corporate email.  

However, the survey found 57% of working professionals said they have stopped working on their laptops because of privacy concerns in a public place, and 70% said they would be more productive in public places if they thought no one else could see their screen.  

The study report is here.