Self-empowering cloud users more likely to compromise security: Softchoice

Employees using software-as-a-service (SaaS) cloud applications have so many credentials to keep track of that they're far more likely than non-cloud users to compromise their passwords through insecure storage, a recent survey by service and solutions provider Softchoice has found.

In a survey of 1000 US and Canadian employees, The Blackstone Group asked workers about their technology and security habits, and found that 36 per cent of employees who were using SaaS applications for work were regularly accessing five or more different apps while working.

With each of those apps having its own user ID and password to remember, users were often resorting to insecure methods to keep track. For example, fully 25 per cent of SaaS users simply wrote their passwords on Post-It notes stuck around their workspace, compared with just 10.2 percent of non SaaS users.

SaaS users were also three times more likely to store their passwords in an unprotected document – a behaviour reported by 29.1 per cent of SaaS users – and ten times more likely to store passwords on unprotected or shared drives, reported by 21 per cent of respondents.

"The reason for shoddy password protection among SaaS application users is found in the sheer number of apps employees access," Softchoice's analysis concluded.

Younger employes were more likely to compromise password security, with 28.5 per cent of 20-somethings admitting they keep their passwords in plain sight and just 10.8 per cent of Baby Boomers admitting the same.

Passwords weren't the only area where SaaS users were more likely to compromise security best-practice: they were twice as likely to email work files to their personal account, four times more likely to try to log into a work account from a previous position, and 16 times more likely to access work files through an application that IT doesn't even know they have.

This last phenomenon, known as 'shadow IT', has emerged in recent years as a significant problem of the cloud era that is forcing companies to revisit their identity and access management (IAM) infrastructure – including the use of single sign-on (SSO) and company-wide password policies.

Shadow IT is just a part of a larger culture of entitlement that the survey uncovered, with the study warning that many employees were compromising security in a display of end-justifies-the-means utilitarianism.

"Finding an app that makes one's daily job responsibilities easier is perceived as more important than running that download decision by IT," the report says, noting that 76 per cent of SaaS users – compared with 58 per cent of non-SaaS users – have needed to access work files while away from the office.

"The cloud is redefining how employees approach their jobs overall, not just how they use technology," it notes. "Unprotected email exchanges and meddling into old accounts becomes personally justifiable by this 'I need it now' attitude. Employees are undermining their IT departments by failing to grasp the risks of their lax behaviour."

In cases where the IT team was involved, respondents were generally complimentary about their response: 67 per cent of SaaS users said their IT department was responsive to them, with 46 per cent saying that their IT department provides a secure equivalent when an unsanctioned app is found.

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