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Cisco study: Mobile workers unsure who’s in charge of company devices

Remote workers believe managers control their out-of-office activity, not IT departments, according to just-released research.

The study, commissioned by Cisco this summer, surveyed the activities of over 1,000 home workers, 1,000 IT decision makers and spanned ten countries including the United Kingdom, United States, France and Germany.

According to the research, in six of the ten countries, more remote workers said their managers had the authority to control their online behavior and not the IT department.

The report also found that 13 percent of all remote employees believe no one should control their use of corporate devices. France had the highest figure of users with this view, at 38 percent.

Furthermore, over half of IT workers surveyed felt their users didn't think IT had the right to know how company computers were used.

All home workers that participated in the study were non-IT professionals, suggesting that managers in areas such as marketing, human resources and sales are perceived to have more power than IT in administering employees' online behavior.

John Stewart, Cisco CSO, said this perception is not a challenge but an opportunity for IT to establish itself as a trusted adviser on security.

"IT understands that employees are aware of security issues but are frequently unaware their behavior is risky," he said. "Education and awareness are key. While it's imperative that IT looks for proactive technology to protect their organizations from risks, marrying products with proactive communication and education is what ultimately produces a security-savvy corporate culture."

According to Jeff Platon, vice president of security solutions and marketing at Cisco, these results contradict the responses of the same workers who took part in a previous study.

"In the first study, two-thirds of remote workers worldwide claimed they were aware of security concerns," he said. "However, many of those same workers admitted engaging in risky behavior when using corporate devices. Their awareness and behavior were contradictory."

The research found that the aforementioned suspicious behavior included hijacking the wireless networks of neighbors, opening suspicious e-mails, accessing corporate files with personal devices and sharing work computers with non-employees.

Platon added: "The contradiction between remote workers' awareness, behavior and their perception of IT provide enough motivation for CIOs and CSOs to re-establish their position as a trusted security adviser within their organizations.

"IT has an opportunity - and obligation - to evolve its image and take a leadership role in making the connection between security risks and workers' actions," he said.

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