Cyber security dangers caused by employees working while on holiday

T-Systems warns employees who work remotely while on holiday risk creating a cyber security threat to the business.

Organisations are at risk of security breaches when they allow their employees to work while on their summer holidays, warns T-Systems.

Where employees absolutely must interrupt their summer vacation to email and work remotely, T-Systems says it is essential those employees have had recent cyber-security training, or they risk compromising business security and confidentiality.

Scott Cairns, the UK head of cyber security at T-Systems, says, ‘Time away from our hectic work life should be treasured, not spoilt by an expectation we will respond to work emails and requests. Putting aside the impact on our families, this practice also creates a real cyber-security threat for organisations.

‘Our research shows a third of employees use free Wi-Fi at locations such as those at airports, hotels, coffee shops and bars, despite these being unsecure and open to communication interception by cyber criminals. Couple this with the widespread practice of employees emailing documents to their private email on their own devices, where security is invariably lower, and you open your organisation to potential attacks.

‘Our message to businesses for the holiday season is ‘let your employees enjoy an uninterrupted break’. Strongly discourage them from taking work on holiday, and make sure employees do not feel pressured to work when they should be taking time out.

‘Where it is unavoidable, businesses should ensure there is training, and clear guidelines to be followed. This training is particularly important, as our research shows many employees are not knowledgeable on the multitude of ways their devices can be infected with viruses and malware… and those who thought they were ‘very knowledgeable’ frequently gave the wrong answer when questioned!’

Cairns adds, ‘We’ve already begun to see the financial impact these malware attacks have had on multinationals in 2017, including Reckitt Benckiser and Mondelez (the maker of Cadbury chocolate). Reckitt disclosed to the Financial Times this month that it expected sales would be hit by an estimated £110 million this year as a direct result.

‘Employees can be an easy scapegoat for poor corporate cyber-security practice, however many do not receive adequate training from their employer. Our research found that despite the pace at which cyber-attacks are evolving, 66 per cent of respondents had received no up-to-date education within the past twelve months. Nearly 30 per cent of respondents say they have never had cyber security education at any employer.

‘Training your employees regularly on effective cyber-security practice is probably the single-most effective step organisations can undertake to dramatically reduce their risks of viruses, malware and other common forms of cyber-crime.’

T-Systems’ research was conducted by respected market research agency Censuswide into over 2,000 UK employees. Its findings include:

Nearly a third of employees (31 per cent) use free Wi-Fi hotspots, and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) use them for work-related emails and documents. These are a big danger area as they are insecure and easy for hackers to clone (getting access to all email and web traffic, including any work documents and passwords)

A quarter (28 per cent) of employees email work documents to and from their personal email, despite this creating numerous security problems.

A tenth use free USB charging points at airports and stations. These ports can be used to transfer viruses and malware to unsuspecting users

The blame, however, cannot solely be placed on the employees, remarkably 28 per cent of employees have never in their working career had any cyber security training to protect themselves and their employer, as you can see the threats are avoidable

Cyber-security training for all employees is particularly important as the dangers continue when employees come home from holiday.

T-Systems’ research finds:

18 per cent of employees admit to connecting their digital camera to their work computer to download photos. And don’t think that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections are safer, viruses and malware can just as easily transfer through wireless connections and then quickly spread through the organisation.

Fifteen  per cent admit to connecting USB sticks and memory cards that they share with their family members to their work computer. A sure way for viruses to quickly spread from home to business.

Further reading on cyber security

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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