Mobile insecurity at work? Blame highly paid dudes

The biggest smartphone security threats at work come from male workers under age 35 who earn more than $60,000 a year.

The biggest smartphone security threats to companies caused by workers come from males under age 35 who earn more than $60,000 a year.

Those are the findings of a new study commissioned by Aruba Networks that questioned 11,500 workers in 23 countries.

Some of the findings in the survey should "give IT the cold shivers," Ben Gibson, chief marketing officer for Aruba, said in an interview.

One data finding in particular popped out, he said, showing that 60% of workers under 35 (which Aruba calls GenMobile) were willing to share their work and personal smartphones and other mobile devices with other people. And nearly one-fifth of them didn't even have passwords on the devices. Many of those without passwords said they did so to be able to share the devices more easily.

Also, 56% of the under 35-year-olds said they were willing to disobey their boss to get work done on a device, while 87% said they assumed their IT shops would keep them protected. Meanwhile, 31% also admitted they had lost data because of the misuse of a device.

Such attitudes "can be compared to driving at high speed with some very creative twists and turns, but often...doing so without a seatbelt," Aruba said.

The age bracket with the highest propensity to experience data and identity theft is workers aged 25-34 years; survey respondents over age 55 are half as likely to have experienced identity theft or the loss of personal or client data.

Employees earning more than $60,000 a year are twice as likely as those making much less to have lost company financial data. Higher earners were also three times as likely to give out a device password. Men are also 20% more likely than women to have lost personal or client data due to the misuse of a smartphone, the survey said.

Aruba described the survey's findings as wake-up call to businesses that need to balance the drive by younger workers to succeed through use of mobile devices and the Internet, while also ensuring that company assets don't suffer.

As younger workers become a more central part of every workplace, "businesses need to understand how to manage workplace productivity and morale, without endangering company security," Aruba said.

Aruba, which is in the process of being acquired by Hewlett-Packard, doesn't consider itself a traditional network security vendor, Gibson said. Aruba created a Security Risk Index tool so companies can rate their risk levels compared to other firms in their country and industry, based on the survey findings.

Separately, Aruba sells ClearPass Policy Management software tools, but is open to interoperate with software from other vendors, Gibson added.

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