Changing working styles creating new cybercrime vulnerabilities: HP


HP Inc. has released a new report that highlights how changing work styles and behaviors are creating new vulnerabilities for companies, individuals, and their data.

According to the global study dubbed HP Wolf Security Blurred Lines & Blindspots Report, 70% of office workers surveyed admit to using their work devices for personal tasks, while 69% are using personal laptops or printers for work activities. Almost 30% of remote workers surveyed have let someone else use their work device. As a result of these and other behaviors, home workers are increasingly being targeted by hackers. KuppingerCole, an international, independent analyst firm that contributed to HP’s report, notes there has been a 238% increase in global cyberattack volume during the pandemic.

“As the lines between work and home have blurred, security risks have soared and everyday actions such as opening an attachment can have serious consequences. Without all of the pre-pandemic sources of visibility of devices, and how they are being used and by who, IT and security teams are working with clouded vision,” comments Joanna Burkey, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), HP Inc

The report similarly notes that 71% of employees surveyed say they access more company data, more frequently, from home now than they did pre-pandemic – with the most common types of data being accessed being: customer and operational data (43% each) and financial and HR records (23% each).

At the same time, the HP Wolf Security report shows office workers surveyed are increasingly using their work devices for personal tasks. For example, 33% download more from the internet than prior to the pandemic – a figure that rises to 60% for those aged 18-24 while 27% of respondents use their work device to play games more than prior to the pandemic – the figure rises to 43% for parents of children aged 5-16.

On the other hand, 36% use their work device for watching online streaming services – again, this figure rises to 60% among those aged 18-24 while four in ten office workers admit to using their work device for homework and online learning more in the past year. A figure that rises to 57% for parents of children aged 5-16.

Hackers are taking advantage of these shifting patterns to tailor their phishing campaigns. According to KuppingerCole, there was a 54% increase in malicious actors exploiting gaming platforms between January and April 2020, often directing users to phishing pages. The HP Wolf Security’s Threat Insights also showed an increase in gaming-themed malware; masquerading as gaming hacks.

KuppingerCole also found at least 700 fraudulent websites impersonating popular streaming services were identified in just one 7-day period in April 2020. Added to this, HP Wolf Security Insights showed users attempting to download malware-infected files – including ransomware – from their personal email accounts to their work devices.

Aside from misusing work devices for personal reasons, office workers are also using potentially insecure devices to connect to the corporate network. 88% of IT decision-makers (ITDMs) say they worry their risk of breach has risen because employees are using personal devices for work that were not built with business security in mind. A YouGov online survey within HP’s report shows 69% of office workers surveyed have used their personal laptop or personal printer/scanner for work activities more often since the start of the pandemic to complete tasks:

 “More than half (51%) of ITDMs have seen evidence in their company of compromised personal PCs being used to access company and customer data in the past year. This is a huge risk that could lead to exposed company data, reputational damage, non-compliance and loss of customer trust,” comments Ian Pratt, Global Head of Security, Personal Systems, HP Inc.

82% of office workers surveyed for the HP Wolf Security report said they had worked from home more since the start of the pandemic than previously, while 39% expect to predominately work from home post-pandemic or split their time equally between home and office-based working. Therefore, many of these risks will remain once the world returns to ‘normal’.

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