How secure is your work laptop and its contents?

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Have you ever paid your bills online during your lunch break? Do you go to meetings without locking your computer first? Has your curiosity caused you to click on a link within an email, knowing there’s a chance it might contain a virus? 

Any of these actions can create a potential security risk, but many workers aren’t taking the necessary precautions to keep their company’s or their own personal information safe on their work laptop. According to a new CareerBuilder survey, of the 26 percent of workers who reported having office laptops, 61 percent said they have critical, sensitive information stored on them.

To store or not to store
Some workers use their company laptops as their personal computer too, saving private emails, pictures and other sensitive information on the device. According to the survey, which included more than 3,800 workers nationwide, 18 percent of respondents store personal financial details on their workplace computer, while another 18 percent keep other personal information on it. Forty-eight percent of workers save company information, and 27 percent store their client’s sensitive information.

Unlocked and unlucky
Some private information may need to be stored on a work computer, but not much is being done to keep the contents safe. The survey found that most workers don’t always leave critical information under lock and key.   

  • 57 percent of workers don’t have a laptop security device.
  • 52 percent don’t lock their computer when they’re away from their desk.
  • 25 percent have left their laptop unsecured overnight.

Passing on passwords
Thankfully, half of respondents memorize their various work-related and personal passwords. Unfortunately, 12 percent don’t trust their memory, opting instead to keep their passwords at their desk, written on their laptop or in their computer case or purse/wallet.

Others trust their co-workers a little too much; 27 percent of workers reported that a co-worker gave them their password, while 15 percent have shared their password with a co-worker. 

Infectious emails
The next time you get an instant message from a friend telling you to “check this out!”, double-check that it’s legit before you click. Hackers have become more sophisticated at causing fraudulent Internet activity, so online interactions aren’t always as innocent as they may seem. Some risky behaviors respondents fessed up to include: 

  • 9 percent of workers have downloaded a virus on their computer at work.
  • 18 percent of workers have opened an attachment or clicked on a link from a sender they didn’t know.
  • 18 percent have looked at a website that they knew wasn’t secure while at work.

Phone fraud
Laptops aren’t the only source of workplace security breaches. Eighteen percent of workers access corporate email through a smartphone, and 5 percent have lost their smartphone or had it stolen. Eric Presley, chief technology officer at CareerBuilder, shares the following tips to keep your laptop and mobile device safe: 

1. Use hard-to-decipher passwords. Use a different password for home and work, and don’t share them with anyone. Make sure your mobile phone requires a password as well.
2. Never click on links or attachments from unknown sources. There’s a good chance there may be a virus lurking behind the scenes. 
3. Don’t leave your laptop unattended. Invest in a laptop security cable, and lock your laptop when you’re away from your desk. Avoid leaving your laptop in your car.
4. Keep up-to-date. Make sure your laptop computer’s security has the latest antivirus software to stave off thieves.
5. Keep personal information separate. Store personal financial information and other files on your home computer.

One Comment
  1. At my 2nd (“fun”) job, I teach a security workshop. At my primary job, I’m an IT security analyst. I’m always telling people to lock their machines, change their passwords, use 2-factor authentication whenever they can, use online tools to create “strong” (i.e., complex) passwords, and use online tools ( to verify that they’re using strong authentication. Keep your software up-to-date and click only those links you know are valid!

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