Half of South African workers (51%) would feel more violated if files were stolen from their computer than if intruders broke into their home.
In a new Citrix survey, 69% of respondents admitted that they have one or more personal files on their computer which they would never want anybody else to see, while 66% also believed that having their personal data stolen at some point was “inevitable”.
The study, commissioned by Citrix and carried out by Opinium, examined attitudes to personal and professional data security by surveying 1 000 full-time workers in South Africa.
Safeguarding both work and personal data has become increasingly important as workers store more information online and cyber criminals continue to advance their methods of attack. Fifty-seven per cent of workers felt more vulnerable to cyber-attacks than they did one year ago.
As such, many South African workers are taking pro-active steps to combat possible threats. Sixty-eight per cent of respondents indicated that they avoid sharing personal information with anyone else, 53% have installed security software or a firewall on their computer and 52% stated that they change their passwords regularly.
The study also found that younger people aged 18 to 34 tended to have more than one private file on their computer that they would want no one else to see (33%), compared with 29% of those aged 35 to 55. As this younger, more digitally-savvy, generation enters the workforce, companies should continue to place significant emphasis on the security of sensitive corporate data, as this demographic tends to be more willing to store personal, and often private, data online.
At work, employee methods of protecting data still seem somewhat dated, with many opting for methods such as backing up work files to an external hard drive or USB (45%) or shredding documents (37%).
Worryingly, a tiny yet significant 4% of respondents even admitted to taking no steps whatsoever. Fewer than one fifth (19%) of respondents make use of the cloud as their preferred method to secure work data, suggested that businesses need to do more to educate employees on the benefits of storing data securely and centrally.
Brendan Mc Aravey, country manager of Citrix South Africa, comments: “The sheer number of high-profile data breaches in the last 12 months has resulted in workers feeling more vulnerable to hacks than ever before. Data safety has never been more important, as workers are storing increasing amounts of personal – and work – data online, potentially opening up a wealth of data for cyber criminals to target.
“Younger age groups are particularly at risk as they are more likely to store larger volumes of important data online,” he says.
“Protecting information and digital identities against hackers is crucial, both at work and at home. Attackers are starting to use more sophisticated methods to target both business-critical and personal information, making it more important than ever to ensure that the correct measures are in place to stay ahead of these threats.
“The results of the study suggest that South African workers are indeed aware of the risks of data theft, however, alongside investment in technology, companies need to educate employees across age groups about their security and compliance obligations to ensure they don’t become part of yet another high profile data breach.”