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Civil servants concerned about consumer device security

Are personal smartphones and tablets fit for use at work?

Seven in 10 senior civil servants think the use of personal laptops in the workplace increases data security risks, and 80 percent also believe smartphones worsen the potential problem.

That is according to a survey of 860 senior civil servants across government departments, completed by public policy research firm Dods, considered the rising use of consumer-based technology in the workplace. It found that 68 percent of respondents thought there was a greater security risk when government officers used personal laptops in the workplace, compared to using department-owned laptops.In addition, 80 percent believed there was a security risk with personal smartphones being used in the workplace, with 47 percent stating this risk is greater than using department-owned smartphones for the same purposes.Ollie Hart, head of public sector business at IT security firm Sophos, which commissioned the research, said: "Public sector organisations need to address the use of consumer devices for work purposes on two fronts."

Hart said departments had to bear in mind that consumer devices are not designed for corporate use, so the security settings may not be optimised for the work place. Civil servants using their own devices for work, either in the office or remotely, would not be likely to consider the same security risks as they do when using work-provided equipment.

"Educating staff and IT teams on security principles, such as the importance of encrypting classified information, is essential, regardless of the type of device that they're using," said Hart.

The Information Commissioner's Office has the power to fine private and public sector organisations up to £500,000 for serious data security breaches. But 41 percent of senior servants in the survey said this figure was not a big enough deterrent.

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