Risky Business: Employees Habitually Careless With Laptops

Ever wonder just how carefully employees treat their work laptops?

They use weak passwords, store personal financial information and open attachments that can contain links to malware, according to a CareerBuilder study.

A significant number of workers may be putting their company or themselves at risk by failing to secure their laptop, sharing passwords or clicking on links from unknown sources, according to the nationwide study. The bottom line: Sensitive employer information may not be treated with the kid gloves it deserves.

In addition to office-related data and documents, a significant percentage of workers said their laptops house a variety of personal files. The type of sensitive information on their office computers could be company information, client information, personal financial information and other personal information, workers with laptops said.

You might think with all that sensitive data, workers would treat their laptops with the utmost of care, securing them when the device is unattended and making sure they use security devices. But most workers rarely guard critical information, the survey found. Over half said they didn’t have a laptop security device. Slightly more than half said they don’t lock them when they’re away from their desk. A quarter said they had left a laptop unsecured overnight. Among younger employees—those 18 to 24—theft of laptops was a problem. Thirteen percent of workers in that age group said they had had a work laptop stolen, compared with 5% of all workers.

Malware and other types of fraudulent activity are on the rise, and a seemingly benign interaction can have serious consequences. Yet 9% of workers have downloaded a virus on their computer at work; 18% have opened an attachment or clicked on a link from a sender they didn’t know; and 18% admitted to looking at a website that they knew was not secure while using a workplace laptop.

Surely password protection affords some security, you might assume. Guess again. While half of workers reported they memorize their passwords, 12% keep passwords at their desks, written on their laptop or in their computer case, purse or wallet. Others have openly discussed their passwords with fellow workers, and 27% said that a coworker gave them their password. Those age 55+ were the most likely to share passwords, while those 18 to 24 were the least likely.

The study’s recommendations for beefing up security include using hard-to-decipher passwords, using different passwords for home and work, keeping up to date with the latest antivirus software to deter online thieves and hackers, and keeping personal information separate. It may seem like common sense, but employers need to remind employees not to share passwords, download attachments from senders they do not know or ever leave a laptop unattended. Laptops should be secured with security cables whenever possible.