UAE employees admit to opening suspicious emails: report

Mimecast has released a new research which highlights the risky behaviour of employees using company-issued devices.

Josh Douglas, Mimecast, suspicious emails
Josh Douglas, Mimecast

More than 1,000 respondents in countries throughout the globe were asked about their use of work devices for personal activities and how aware they are of today’s cyber risks. The results highlighted the need for better awareness training, as people are clicking on links or opening suspicious emails despite having been trained.

Earlier this year, an urgent request for IT teams across the globe was to ensure the efficient issuance of laptops and other computing devices to employees, as much of the workforce started working remote due to the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). A key priority for IT professionals was to then ensure their IT and security policies were ready for the rush to remote work.

Mimecast’s research found that in the UAE, 87 percent of respondents extensively use their company-issued device for personal matters, with two-thirds (66 percent) admitting to an increase in frequency since starting to work remote. The most common activities were checking personal email (57 percent), carrying out financial transactions (59 percent) and video calls with friends and family (50 percent).

According to the State of Email Security 2020 report, personal email and browsing the web/shopping online were already two areas of major concern for IT professionals. In the Middle East, 66 percent of respondents said there was a risk to checking personal email as the cause of a serious security mistake, and 65 percent thought surfing the web or online shopping could likely cause an incident.

Encouragingly, all of the respondents in the UAE (100 percent) claim to be aware that links in email, on social media sites and on websites can potentially infect their devices. Eighty-one percent have even received special cybersecurity awareness training related to working from home during the pandemic. However, this doesn’t always translate into putting this knowledge into practice.  The research highlights themes of a strong disconnect in certain countries, including the UAE. Despite the majority of respondents stating that they’ve had special awareness training, 61 percent still opened emails they considered to be suspicious. Meanwhile, 50 percent of the respondents admitted to not reporting suspicious emails to their IT or security teams.

“This research shows that while there is a lot of awareness training offered, most of training content and frequency is completely ineffective at winning the hearts and minds of employees to reduce today’s cyber security risks,” said Josh Douglas, vice president of threat intelligence.

“Better training is crucial to avoid putting any organisation at risk. Employees need to be engaged, and trainings need to be short, visual, relevant and include humour to make the message resonate. In fact, Mimecast has found that end-users who have taken Mimecast Awareness Training are 5.2 times less likely to click on dangerous links. Awareness training can’t be just another check-the-box activity if you want a security conscious organisation.”

Despite being the most tech savvy generation, younger workers may be putting organisations at greater risk. Surprisingly, 50 percent of the 16-24 age group in the UAE admitted to opening emails even though they looked suspicious. This group is also more guilty of blurring the lines between their business and personal usage of these devices. Everyone in the 16-24 age group (100 percent) reported using their issued devices for personal use, while only 50 percent of the older – 45-54- group admitted the same.

Respondents averaged 2.5 hours of personal activity on their work devices a day, above the global average of 1.9 hours. Over a third (34 percent) clocked more than 3 hours of non-work-related screen time, against a global average of 22 percent.

The research also revealed how habits differ between males and females. In the UAE, 92 percent of men reported using their corporate device for personal business versus 75 percent of women.


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