Home working is still data security disaster in the making, says Imation

Encryption, what encryption?

After a decade trying, many organisations seem no nearer solving the problem of allowing staff to work at home without breaking basic data security, a survey by Imation has found. Many workers are still using their own PCs for home work and move files between the two environments in an insecure state.

The firm asked 1,000 workers (500 each from the UK and Germany), finding that laptops are the most commonly used remote-working device, with nearly half specifying their own rather than the organisation's machine.

About a quarter had used their own desktop PC, 19 percent their own smartphone, and 15 percent their own tablet to carry out the same tasks. On the other side, 43 percent had used their organisation's laptop and a much smaller number an employer-provided tablet.

When moving data around, just over half mentioned a work laptop, 45 percent the dreaded USB stick, and 31 percent a smartphone or tablet. Some had started using cloud services to carry out this task, with 28 percent specifying a service mandated by their employer, while 28 percent didn't take data at all and stuck with the secured VPN.

Forty-four percent said that data taken away from the office wasn't encrypted, 15 percent mentioned biometrics, and three quarters used some kind of password.

As for how these behaviours fit into security policies, three quarters mentioned that their organisations had one, something that was especially true in financial services, manufacturing, telecoms and the public sector.

Only 8 percent thought they had knowingly broken a security policy but 18 percent had done so unwittingly, because they didn't know such a thing existed.

"Long term, IT departments are building themselves a heap of trouble by not giving users adequate tools," argued Imation's security vice president of sales, Nick Banks.

"A lot of companies don't have a remote working policy [while others] break the policy without knowing its exists."

In Imation's view - which has bought up several portable storage firms in recent years including IronKey - the answer is to invest more in technology such as Windows To Go, a way of carrying around a working but secure Windows environment on a USB stick.

You could argue that a better solution for some would be cloud storage or secure cloud services but these are still at an early stage of development or cost too much for some budgets - Imation's Windows to Go isn't cheap enough to deployed to everyone and requires active management.

Imation does offer other solutions to the issue of secure data transport, such as the recently announced H300 USB drive that can be managed from the cloud.

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