As part of this week's Infosecurity Europe conference, researchers stood outside the Liverpool Street tube station in London and offered 576 office workers a bar of chocolate for filling out a survey.
Included in the survey was a range of personal information, including name, address, birthdate, and computer passwords. While 45 percent of the women surveyed provided the passwords, only 10 percent of the men did so.
Overall, the local population did much better this year than during the 2007 Infosecurity Europe conference, when 64 percent of all respondents gave up their personal data for chocolate. This year, only 21 percent offered their passwords.
However, 61 percent of the respondents offered their birthdate, which is the date most often used to create passwords, the researchers noted.
"Our researchers also asked for workers' names and telephone numbers so that they could be entered into a drawing to go to Paris. With this incentive, 60 percent of men and 62 percent of women gave us their contact information," said Claire Sellick, event director for Infosecurity Europe.
"That promise of a trip could cost you dear," Sellick said. "Once a criminal has your date of birth, name and phone number, they are well on the way to carrying out more sophisticated social engineering attacks on you, such as pretending to be from your bank or phone company and extracting more valuable information that can be used in ID theft or fraud."
Workers were also queried about their use of passwords at work. Half said that they knew their colleagues' passwords. When asked if they would give their passwords to someone who phoned and said they were from the IT department, 58 percent said they would.
"This research shows that it's pretty simple for a perpetrator to gain access to information that is restricted by having a chat around the coffee machine, getting a temporary job as a [personal assistant], or pretending to be from the IT department," Sellick said. "This type of social engineering technique is often used by hackers targeting a specific organization with valuable data or assets, such as a government department or a bank."
Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading
Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio