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Civil servants ignore infosecurity policies, survey says

Nearly eight out of 10 public sector employees ignore information security policies and indulge in insecure behaviour, according to a survey of IT and information security managers in 1,000 large and medium firms in the public sector, finance, law, manufacturing and media sectors.

The research, conducted by SafeBoot, a supplier of mobile data encryption technology, was done before a spate of revelations of data leakage headed by the HMRC's loss in the post of personal and banking details of 25 million child benefit recipients.

Overall, the research showed 59% of firms spent less than 10% of their IT budgets on security, even though 82% (88% of public sector firms) had a security policy. Most firms communicated the policy using memos (34%) and e-mail (29%).

Some 54% of respondents said at least half of their employees ignored the firm's security policy. But this rose to 79% for public sector staff.

Staff who ignore the policy (39%) do so because they do not take it seriously. One in five is ignorant of the threat posed by data leakage however, this rises to 51% for public sector staff.

Public sector staff scored worse that private sector staff in nearly every category of unsafe behaviour. Nearly nine of 10 would open unknown e-mails compared with seven out of 10 on average. Three-quarters would connect an external device such as an iPod or digital camera to their work PCs, and 71% would download company data. Nearly six of ten used unencrypted USB memory devices, and 35% transported data unencrypted on mobile devices.

Survey results

In your opinion what percentage of employees ignore your security policy?

% Response           Overall    Finance   Public Sector   Legal   Manufacturing   Media

10 - 25 per cent       19          37           3                     44           5                    6

25 - 50 per cent       27          14           18                   32            32                 39

50 - 75 per cent       38          32           56                   18            48                 36

75 - 100 per cent     16          17            23                   6             15                 19


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