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Protecting work info ranks low in mobile privacy survey

A privacy survey found that most smartphone owners care far less about securing work-related data in comparison to other information stored on their phones. 

Ranked highest in importance was users' personal information, which 76 percent of respondents said they would take the most steps to protect. Lookout's "Mobile Privacy IQ" study, released Tuesday, polled more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. between January 29 and February 5 who owned a smartphone to examine mobile trends and attitudes. 

After personal information, 16 percent of respondents said they would take the most security measures for information about their family, while only five percent said the same of work data.Three percent said they would take the most steps to protect information about their friends.

“As the lines continue to blur between personal and work life, mobile devices are becoming vehicles for sensitive corporate data to easily enter and leave the network perimeter,” Lookout's report said. “Despite the fact that this poses a potential risk to employers, findings show that personal data trumps work data when it comes to the information people would take the most steps to protect.

“What's more is that once BYOD or corporate owned devices are out in the wild, users tend to partake in behavior that could put corporate interests at risk [like] connecting to unsecured WiFi, using public charging stations, and downloading apps without reading the permissions to understand what sort of access that app will have,” the report continued.

The survey also highlighted a major gap between users' perceived security awareness and their behavior.

More than 40 percent of smartphone owners rated their mobile privacy IQ – defined in the report as “a person's knowledge of safe privacy practices while using a smartphone,” as “above average” or “well above average.” But, the mobile users who believed their privacy IQ was well above average more often engaged in risky activities on their smartphones, like failing to lock their device with pin or passcode (34 percent) or downloading mobile apps from unofficial marketplaces (35 percent).

Among this pool of respondents, 52 percent said that they don't read privacy policies before downloading mobile apps.

In Wednesday email correspondence with, Lookout Mobile Security Advocate Cherie Gatson said it was “quite alarming” that survey participants cared least about protecting work data, especially since “mobile devices are entering and leaving the work perimeter at an increasing rate and the lines between personal and work life continue to blur.”

“A resounding theme of the survey is that we need to bridge the gap between awareness and action,” Gatson added later. “Mobile devices have become the predominant computing platform for both work and personal use, making them prime targets for cybercriminals. As we continue to lay the foundation for a connected world, it's more important than ever that people are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of personal and work data.”

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