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Survey: Two-Thirds of Healthcare Employees Share Confidential Data On Occasion

April 25, 2017
by Heather Landi
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Seventy-two percent of employee say they would share sensitive, confidential or regulated company information under certain circumstances and 68 percent of healthcare employees report that they share confidential or regulated data on occasion, according to the Dell End-User Security Survey.

For the survey, Dell Data Security conducted an online survey of 2,608 professionals across eight countries that have access to and work with confidential, sensitive or regulated data and information at companies with more than 250 employees.

Nearly three in four (72 percent) employees say they would share sensitive, confidential or regulated company information under certain circumstances. The most cited circumstances include: being directed to do so by management (43 percent); sharing with a person specifically authorized to receive it (37 percent); determining that the risk to their company is very low and the potential benefit high (23 percent); feeling it will help them do their job more effectively (22 percent); and feeling it will help the recipient do their job more effectively (13 percent).

From an employee’s perspective, there is a great deal of gray area surrounding what entails authorized sharing of data, the report authors wrote. “Most employees may recognize they shouldn’t email a customer’s credit card information to anyone under any circumstance. But is it acceptable to share a confidential product roadmap with a vendor if an employee’s manager tells him or her to do so? What about sharing a brief on an unreleased product with the marketing team’s copywriter so he or she can prepare web copy?,” the author wrote. According to the Dell End-User Security Survey, there are a number of circumstances under which it makes sense to share confidential information in order to push business initiatives forward.

When employees make the judgment call on whether or not to share the confidential data it leaves them responsible for properly gauging the risk or benefit of sharing certain types of information. The report authors note that is one of the reasons why it’s common for cyber thieves to pose as a trusted partner, employee or organization to convince employees to share sensitive data.

On this point, more than one in three employees (36 percent) will frequently open emails from unknown senders at work, potentially opening the door for spear phishing attacks in which a cybercriminal seeks unauthorized access to sensitive information from a specific organization or individual by posing as a trusted source, according to the report. “When security becomes a case-by-case judgement call being made by hundreds or even thousands of employees, it loses its consistency and efficacy, the report authors wrote.

Employees in financial services were the most likely to share sensitive information at 81 percent, followed by education employees (75 percent). “This means that among the top four banks in the United States, more than 586,000 employees have the propensity to share sensitive data,” the authors wrote. Employees in healthcare (68 percent) and federal government (68 percent), while still less likely to share data than financial services employees, also share confidential or regulated data on occasion, the report stated.

The survey findings also indicate that the real danger may lie not in what information is shared, but in how it’s done. When employee do share or interact with confidential data, they often do so insecurely, according to the Dell Security survey.

Forty-five percent of employees across organizations admit to engaging in unsafe behaviors throughout the workday. These behaviors include connecting to public Wi-Fi to access confidential information (46 percent), using personal email accounts for work (49 percent), or losing a company-issued device (17 percent).

Those in highly regulated organizations engage in unsafe behaviors at even higher rates: 48 percent say they have connected to public Wi-Fi to access confidential work information, more than half (52 percent) have used personal email accounts for confidential work communications, and more than one in five (21percent) have lost a company-issued work device.


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