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Teleworkers Know (And Ignore) Security Risks, Study Says

The majority of telecommuters are aware of the security dangers that go along with using mobile devices and remotely logging onto their employers' networks, yet their behavior for the most part contradicts this awareness, according to a study issued Monday by Cisco Systems and research firm InsightExpress.

Of 1,000 teleworkers contacted across 10 countries, more than one of every five allows friends, family members, or other non-employees to use his/her work computer to access the Internet. The top five justifications for doing this were that workers didn't see anything wrong with it, their companies didn't mind, they didn't think that letting others use company-issued computers increases security risks, they doubted their companies would care, and their co-workers did it, too.

About one-third of the teleworkers admitted using work computers for personal computing, while nearly half of the respondents indicate that they download personal files onto their work devices. One of every four remote worker surveyed indicated he or she opens unknown e-mails when using work devices.

Despite this risky behavior, don't expect companies to corral their remote workers anytime soon. Telecommuting and remote access are "an unstoppable force, so we have to build security for it," says Bob Gleichauf, CTO of Cisco's security business unit. This means security has to be taken out of the hands of end users as much as possible. Security in the future has to be "security out of the box, building security into processes and technologies," he adds.

It may not be security out of the box, but Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas, does keep close tabs on its teleworkers to head problems off at the pass. The hospital relies on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services or a virtual private network to deliver secure access to staff that works from home and to workers at different clinics across 33 counties that the hospital serves. Of the thousands of health-care workers at Driscoll and this network of clinics, only about 80 require this sort of remote access, but even a handful of remote users improperly managed can expose the health-care facility's IT systems to a virus, spyware, or a data breach.

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