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October 10, 2013

Protecting sensitive company information from the commuter snoopers

There's a lot of snooping taking place on trains, planes and automobiles.

By Duncan Macrae

The need to work on the go combined with the confined space of public transport has put sensitive business information at increased risk.

The threat to information may well be malicious – public transport is a common hunting ground for organised criminal gangs and opportunist thieves looking for easy pickings. However, it is not just the bag snatchers and the pick pockets that pose the threat.Talking confidential company business on the phone and working on sensitive documents while commuting are also a concern.

New research from storage and information management company, Iron Mountain, revealed that 72% of the UKs office commuters are looking over the shoulder of the person sitting next to them to find out what their fellow commuter is working on.

One in five UK commuters (20%) have seen confidential or highly sensitive information. Nearly a fifth (18%) of those in marketing say that they frequently sneak a peek at the work of fellow commuters, compared to just 6% of legal professionals. Marketing professionals are the most likely to be working on confidential or sensitive work during their commute (35%). PA and Admin staff are, at 15%, the least likely to undertake confidential or sensitive work while on public transport. Across all job roles, 21% of respondents say they are doing confidential or sensitive work while travelling on public transport.

In the UK trains (58%) and planes (42%) are the top locations for ‘commuter-snooping’, although one in five (20%) at director level or above find the airport business lounge a particularly fertile ground for information spotting.

It is not just exposing information on mobile devices that presents the threat. Paper documents often contain critical information that must be safeguarded while travelling and, when discarded, securely destroyed so that the information cannot be reconstituted.

"While practical and inevitable, working on the go could be exposing employers to significant information risk, including data breaches and the loss of competitive advantage," said Christian Toon, risk and security, Iron Mountain. "Most of us have seen documents left in plain sight, left on display on a portable device or left behind, albeit temporarily, as a fellow commuter pops out of the carriage to take a phone call or grab a sandwich. Commuters need to think ‘leave it and lose it!’ What would be the cost to your business and reputation if an employee inadvertently shared sensitive information or let documents get into the wrong hands? There are simple and inexpensive measures that all businesses should take."

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