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90% of UAE employees share sensitive company data: Survey

Waheed Abbas/Dubai
Filed on March 16, 2021
Photo: Reuters

Less than a third employees haven’t shared sensitive information, data shows

Nearly 90 per cent of employees in the UAE have owned up to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data through instant messaging applications (apps) and business collaboration tools, reveals a new report that was released on Tuesday.

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The study, which was conducted by Veritas Technologies, found that employees are sharing confidential data and exposing companies and businesses to the risk of exorbitant penalties that are likely to be imposed by regulators.

Around 62 per cent are saving their own copies of the information they share over instant messaging apps, while 47 per cent delete them.

Sensitive data being shared by UAE employees on these channels includes client information, details on human resource (HR) issues, contracts, business plans, and even Covid-19 test results.

However, less than a third of employees said that they hadn’t shared anything that could be compromising.

“For millions of us, our entire way of working has been reset since the start of 2020. We have seen a dramatic shift in how we, as businesses, communicate both with our employees and our customers in the region, and companies are rushing to bolster their data protection and discovery strategies to include the platforms where their business is actually being done,” said Johnny Karam, managing director (MD) and vice-president (VP) of International Emerging region at Veritas Technologies.

45% accept order on apps

The research showed time spent on tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has increased by 20 per cent owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, as a significant number of businesses is now being conducted as routine on these channels and employees are taking agreements as binding.

Significantly, around 45 per cent of employees have accepted and processed an order received over messaging and collaboration tools. While 42 per cent accepted a reference for a job candidate and 33 per cent accepted a signed version of a contract.

Some employers are clearer in enforcing their policies than others with an average of 33 per cent respondents in the UAE having been reprimanded by their employer for their instant messaging app use.

Sharing information, despite reprimand

The study found that sensitive data is being shared on these tools in spite of the fact that 33 per cent of knowledge workers have been reprimanded by bosses for their use of them. These admonishments may have been in vain, however, as 79 per cent of all workers responding to the survey said that they would share this kind of information in the future.

“It is now clear that constraining employees to ‘approved’ methods of communication and collaboration tools isn’t effective. Instead, our message is simple: don't fight it – fix it,” said Karam.

Around 97 per cent of UAE employees view email as a reliable affirmation of an agreement and electronic signature at 94 per cent. Instant messaging is still trusted by 95 per cent, SMS text by 91 per cent and WhatsApp by 87 per cent.

Around 73 per cent even viewed social media as reliable proof that something has been agreed.

“Business data is now everywhere. Deals are being done, orders are being processed, and sensitive personnel information is being shared, all through videoconferencing and messaging platforms. It is now critical for companies to include this rapidly growing volume of data in their protection and compliance envelope. If they don't, the implications could be huge,” Karam added.

waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com





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