Corporate security: not just for Christmas

8.5m office workers are planning to plug Christmas gadgets into the workplace. Something else to worry about...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Jan 2011
We like nothing better than kicking off the year with a suitably scaremongering technology story. Luckily for us, Virgin Media Business has conducted a survey of 5,000 office workers and found that 74% of them are planning to show off their gadget gifts to co-workers when they get back to the office in the New Year. Extrapolating that, it means 8.5m people will be wielding shiny new kit.
Big deal, you may say, as you reach under your desk and plug in your brand new deluxe bubble-action foot spa. But these days a consumer gadget is just as likely to double as a work thing: take iPads, smartphones and netbooks, for instance. This, says Virgin, means more ways for companies to lose precious data, and an even higher volume of information downloaded over your network. Even when it’s not potentially dangerous, this could place a serious burden on your bandwidth. Oh for the days when bringing a Christmas gadget to work risked nothing more annoying than a shades-wearing Coke can that danced when you clapped.
This new consumer gadget menace is apparently ‘infiltrating’ all sectors, but the highest penetration will be in the legal and public sectors; here, 79% of workers will apparently be ‘looking to fight the January blues by showing off their new devices’. Your first reaction may be to ask how old these people are; we’re not sure why lawyers are getting so excited about their Chrimbo gifts that they have to run into the playground and show them off, while earning fees of £1,000 a day. But apparently this is a genuine 'phenomenon': 40% confessed to being ‘repeat offenders’, admitting that they have plugged consumer gadgets into the workplace without consulting the company’s IT department. Shock horror.
It may seem like an innocent diversion. But this year the security landscape will continue to change at a very scary rate, and diligence is becoming more than a preoccupation solely for the IT bods. We can apparently expect more malware attacks via Facebook and Twitter and devices like smart phones, as well as more sophisticated social engineering attacks where hackers target employees as potential routes in to corporate networks. Hence it’s increasingly important to know who’s plugging what into the company systems, and what they’re doing with them once they're in.
The trick is to get your usage policies in place, and educate employees so they know why security measures are important. It’s for their own benefit in the long run. Like telling your lawyer that he’s only allowed to play Angry Birds on his iPad once he’s finished putting together that corporate manslaughter defence.

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