Women: beware of geeks bearing gifts

Apparently, 45% of women are actually willing to give up IT security details for a free bar of chocolate...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to a survey by Infosecurity Europe, 45% of female office workers were so desperate to get their hands on a free bar of chocolate that they were prepared to give up their computer password to a complete stranger. Here at MT we laugh in the face of traditional gender stereotypes – but some clichés obviously exist for a reason…

To mark Information Security Awareness week (which starts next Monday - what do you mean you didn’t know?), the company’s staff posed as market researchers outside Liverpool Street station in London and asked passers-by for personal details, to prove how easy it would be for computer hackers to trick their way into our IT systems. This was, the company suggested, a ‘social engineering exercise’ – as opposed to a ‘cheap publicity stunt’, presumably...

Some of these loose-lipped respondents also happily gave up their name, date of birth, address and telephone number - all perfect fodder for the identity thief, as well as the hacker. Apparently these people were surprised to learn they’d been duped on the grounds that the ‘researchers’ were ‘so well dressed and honest’ that they didn’t look like criminals. Presumably they’re under the impression that all hackers hang around in those grey overalls with pointy arrows on them.

Although fewer people gave up their passwords this year (just 21% compared to 64% last year, suggesting we’ve become slightly less gullible in the last 12 months) we’re still amazed that so many people fell for the stunt. OK, so we all love a freebie - we pile our supermarket trolleys with products on ‘buy one get one free’ promotions and stuff our shelves with books on ‘three for two’ offers. But surely most people have realised by now that you very rarely get something for nothing?

And we imagine that employers will read all this with horror. After all, nobody wants to be the next big data loss story, after the opprobrium heaped on HSBC and HM Revenue & Customs recently. Although it does make us wonder – how many chocolate bars did it take to lose those missing data disks...?

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