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12/8/2016
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Browser Security FAIL

New survey report shows businesses are not adopting best security practices for their users' Web activity.

It's no surprise to learn businesses are worried about cybersecurity, especially after another big year of data breaches and cyberattacks. Even so, most organizations don't take basic steps towards securing the browser - one of the prime vectors of attack.

Authentic8 surveyed 250 business pros in the US to learn about top-of-mind security concerns, personal browsing behavior, and corporate browsing policies. Researchers learned there is a "knowledge gap" in protecting employees and businesses, says founder and CEO Scott Petry.

"The browser is a ubiquitous dashboard for business functions, Web apps, personal activity like banking and healthcare, etc.," Petry explains. "It's also become the biggest source of vulnerability in terms of information theft, identity theft, and malicious exploits."

Enterprise security strategies have not evolved to meet business needs. When asked about corporate browsing policies, 26% of respondents say they don't have a policy in place; 36.5% have a policy that allows personal Web activity within reason, and 21% have a policy that blocks most personal Web activity like social media.

Only 6% have a strict Web policy that blocks personal Web access. Ten percent answered the question with "I don't know," which Petry admits was a concerning trend across all survey results.

"The amount of people who said 'I don't know' suggests a naiveté that may be a bit scary," he says. "This suggests user education is a big gap, which isn't a surprise but a disturbing statistic."

When asked about the most concerning online threats, the respondents cited identity theft (80%), stolen credit card data (79%), viruses and malware aside from malware (75%), and phishing or password theft (66.5%).

Petry says these results are characteristic of the survey's target audience, which was comprised of businesspeople and not IT or security pros. Respondents cite greater concern for personal issues like credit card theft; however, less than half (47%) listed ransomware, a sign they don't have business assets at top of mind.

Unlike stolen credit card data, ransomware puts all employee information at risk, and it doesn't use anything technically innovative to do it. Business pros may not know what ransomware is, Petry admits, and this is a concern.

"Once ransomware is on your system, it does some interesting things, but it gets there by the same process," he explains. "The user clicks a link, the browser downloads code and executes it. There is no new class of exploit," and the fact that more people aren't aware is surprising, he says.

The most consistently disturbing aspect of the survey was the issue of password misuse, and the cavalier nature with which people protect their accounts and data. 

Most respondents (60%) claimed to use the same passwords across different websites "when it's not important." Eighteen percent claimed to do this "all the time" and only 24% said they never use the same password twice.

This is an education problem, and IT needs to think about employee instruction as more formal process. Companies investing in this, and making users smarter about online activity, is an important pillar in security. Regular updates for firewalls and anti-virus programs aren't enough to protect businesses in an increasingly connected world, Petry cautions.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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