A worrying percentage of businesses are not adequately protecting the devices they issue to their employees, according to new research commissioned by Kaspersky.
Kaspersky commissioned Arlington Research to conduct interviews with 2,000 UK adult consumers in June 2020 to gain a better understanding of the state of cybersecurity at UK businesses.
32% of respondents said they had been provided with a desktop computer by their employer, but only 77% of those devices had adequate cybersecurity software installed to protect against cyber threats. 23% of the desktops were vulnerable to cyberattacks and could potentially be infected with malware, which could then spread to the corporate network.
Many businesses give smartphones to their employees and these were similarly not protected by adequate security software. 23% of those devices similarly lacked antivirus software. Laptop computers were more likely to have security software installed, since they were frequently used to work remotely and were outside the protection of the corporate firewall; however, even with the elevated risk associated with the devices, 20% of devices had insufficient security software installed.
The survey revealed almost a quarter of all corporate-owned computers and smartphones did not have antivirus software installed. In the event of a malware download, there is a very high chance that the malware would not be detected and could be used to covertly steal sensitive data.
The timing of the research makes the findings even more worrying. The research was conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown, when 48% of employees in the UK were working from home and accessing the corporate network using the same devices that were inadequately secured. During that time there was an increase in cyberattacks targeting home workers.
Not all employers were able to let their employees take devices home. In order to ensure that their employees were able to continue to work, many employers allowed the workforce to use their personal devices for work purposes. Personal devices that were used for work purposes were found to have even fewer protections and therefore posed and even greater security risk.
Personal smartphones were used by half of respondents for checking their work email and 36% of respondents said they used a personal laptop or desktop computer for work.
“It’s important that all businesses pre-install staff computers and devices with security software to ensure they are protected at all times. Employers must also make sure staff know how to install or check the status of anti-virus software while working on personal, or company devices from home, to secure corporate information and networks,” said David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky.