On the other hand, businesses have an obligation to secure their data. And the sad truth is they can’t count on their employees to help very much.
It’s not because workers don’t care about their employer’s data. In fact, a survey last fall by Dell, where Hansen is vice president of client software and general manager of data security, found that most employees do care about protecting employer data, and have even received education on the subject in the last year.
“But when it came to trade-off decisions between good data hygiene and getting my job done, which do you think most employees chose? Overwhelmingly, it’s the latter,” Hansen said during an interview at Dell Technologies World 2018 this week in Las Vegas.
The Dell survey found that 72 percent of employees were sending confidential data outside the organization, and that well over half were using personal email and personal cloud applications to share sensitive documents. When asked whether they’d go around their company’s data security policies if they felt it was necessary to get their job done, 43 percent acknowledged they would.
“And that’s just the ones who admit it,” Hansen said.
But can you blame them? Workers aren’t measured or compensated for protecting employers’ data, so naturally they’re going to prioritize the things that their performance is judged on.
“I’m a data security professional,” Hansen said, “and my boss has never once said during my annual review, ‘You missed your numbers, but you did a really good job with data hygiene, so I’m going to give you your full bonus.’”
That leads to a stark truth for business leaders: for all the legitimate concern about external attacks such as malware and ransomware, Hansen said, “you have to be thinking about how to protect yourself from your own employees.”
And if anything, small to midsized businesses have more at stake, because they have less margin for error in the case of a data loss, and they rely more heavily on contractors, freelancers and other members of the growing “alternative labor force.”