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12/8/2015
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Retailers Inadequately Secured Against Risks From Temporary Workers

Retailers recognize temps are higher-risk, but have lower visibility into their activity.

Retailers recognize that temporary staff on the store floor pose a greater security risk than permanent staff, but those same retailers may believe they are better secured against the risks than they are, according to a report released today by Osterman Research, commissioned by Bay Dynamics.

According to research from the Hay Group, turnover for part-time sales associates in retail averaged 66 percent in 2014. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in October alone, even leading into the holiday shopping season, there was a 4.4 percent "separation rate" in the retail labor force, including a 2.8 percent "quit rate." This contributes to the fact that, as Osterman researchers explain "employee loyalty is relatively low."

Thirty-two percent of respondents to the report -- which surveyed U.S. retailers with 2,000 or more employees -- said that temporary employees are "high-risk," while only 18 percent consider permanent employees high-risk. 

Yet, their visibility into temporary employees' data access and behavior is worse than it is for permanent employees.

While 62 percent survey respondents stated that they "know everything" permanent employees are doing on their corporate systems, only 50 percent said the same of temps. While 92 percent said they can identify what specific systems their permanent employees accesssed, only 63 percent said the same of temps. While 14 percent said they are not sure if permanent employees accessed or sent data they should not have, 26 percent were similarly unsure about temporary staff.

Osterman researchers believe the real figures might be even worse than they think, because 61 percent also said that their temporary workers shared login credentials. (Twenty-one percent said permanent workers shared credentials.) From the report:

Since employees are using shared accounts as shown in Figure 1, the in-house IT and security teams do not have visibility into each individual’s behavior, either for permanent or temporary employees, and cannot determine what that individual is doing on their network (completely contradicting the response from the majority of survey respondents that said they know everything permanent and temporary employees are doing on their corporate systems).

... This highlights a critical problem in the retail industry: much of what employees do from a security perspective is “under the radar” and more or less invisible to IT and security management. For example, an employee with unique or shared login credentials to a point-of-sale (POS) system can process bogus voids, deletes or refunds, and a large proportion of organizations will not be able to determine that fraud has occurred. Similarly, employees can mistakenly click on a phishing link in a corporate email and thereby infect the entire corporate network, often unbeknownst to IT/security management.

The lion's share of respondent's believe they are being proactive at detecting data theft/leakage (86%), identifying data assets that must be protected (86%), controlling employee access to critical data assets (81%), and providing awareness training (71%). Only 39 percent of respondents conduct awareness training more than once a year.

As the report states, "digging deeper into the survey results, it becomes clear that retailers are resting on a false sense of confidence in their security programs and do not realize, or perhaps do not want to acknowledge, that there are significant holes. Consequently, retailers are elevating their risk of getting breached."

Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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