Remote workers still causing IT headaches

"Reckless" and uninformed remote workers – opening emails from unknown sources and surfing on their neighbours' wireless networks – are partly responsible for an anticipated rise in security spending by IT managers during 2008.

That's according to new research commissioned by networking giant Cisco and carried out by market research firm InsightExpress. It surveyed more than 2,000 remote workers and IT professionals across various industries in 10 countries including the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, India, Australia and Brazil.

Sixty two percent of the IT respondents said they will increase spending in 2008, and of those, more than half (37 percent) said their increased security investments will rise by more than 10 percent as compared to their previous years' budgets.

The study showed that IT managers in developing countries such as China, India and Brazil were prepared to spend the most on security investments (by more than 10 percent year-on-year). These countries are the fastest-growing economies, and tend to suffer the least from malware attacks that have previously hit developed countries such as the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan.

The study pinpoints that risky behaviour from remote workers in these developing countries is much more extensive than in nations with a longer history of corporate Internet use. Speaking to Techworld, a Cisco spokesman opined that that the behaviour of remote workers in China, India and Brazil was a particular problem.

"There is an argument that as these guys are the fastest growing, they require more build out," he said. "Networks are expanding in these countries, then security has to follow it, which is natural. What is unnatural is the rate of reckless behaviour by remote workers. China is the worse out of the three for reckless behaviour for remote workers."

However, UK remote workers are not without fault (as other research has also shown).

According to the Cisco research, a disturbing three percent of remote workers in the UK still open suspicious or unknown emails and attachments, while 45 percent open the email to see who it is from but do not open attachments or click on the links.

Thirty percent of UK remote workers delete suspicious emails immediately without opening them. Four percent leave the email unopened but fail to notify IT, while 18 percent leave the email unopened and let IT know about it.

The survey also indicated that in the UK, 71 percent of end-users said they maintain security awareness when working online from remote locations, just down from 72 percent in 2006.

But the rise of more Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless networks is proving to be a temptation, with more and more UK remote workers admitting to hijacking their neighbours' wireless network; 11 percent now do this compared to just six percent in 2006.

It seems ignorance is mostly to blame for this behaviour, with most remote workers saying they couldn't tell if they are using their own networks or someone else's wireless connection. Others said that setting up their own wireless network was difficult and confusing.

But there is also a far amount of premeditation involved as well. The study showed that 27 percent admitted to doing this because they were in a bind, 18 percent reported it was more convenient than using their own wireless network, while nine percent said they did it because they don’t have their own Internet connection.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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