Big Security Risk for Small Businesses Concerning Employee Social Media

A new Cyber Readiness Institute survey finds that small business owners say employee social media use is a security risk. More than one-in-five employees admit to skirting company cybersecurity policies on a weekly basis.

More than 80% of companies allow employees to use personal devices for work, but 46% are not sure or have no clue what social media apps are on those devices.

The recent national debate over the use of TikTok and other social media applications on work devices has heightened security concerns for the owners of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

According to a new Cyber Readiness Institute (CRI) survey of SMBs, 56% believe that their employees’ social media use poses a cybersecurity threat. Yet, 82% of employers allow employees to use personal devices to access work email or other data and 64% say that more than half of their workers have social media applications on devices they use for work.

Business owner cybersecurity concerns appear to be warranted as 22% of workers admit to ignoring or working around their company’s cybersecurity guidelines on a daily or weekly basis. While 56% of employees say they have social media applications on devices they use for work, only 30% say their company has issued new guidelines on the use of social media applications on devices used for work.

“It is clear that small business owners are fully aware of the cybersecurity risks associated with mixing personal and work activities on the same device,” said Kiersten Todt, Managing Director of the Cyber Readiness Institute.

“SMBs now need to issue policies that address these risks. More than 4-in-5 owners allow employees to use personal devices for work and only about half have policies regarding the apps that can or cannot be on devices used. It is a recipe for cyber insecurity.”

What Social Media Applications Do Employees Use on Their Work Devices

security risks social media chart

During the week of Aug. 17, CRI used Survey Monkey to survey 400 SMB owners (margin of error of +/- 6%) and 1,059 U.S. workers (margin of error +/- 3%).

Additional survey findings include:

· 67% of business owners allow employees to use social media applications on work devices.

· 42% of business owners say that more than 75% of their employees have social media applications on devices they use for work.

· 36% of employers are considering adding new policies regarding social media apps or modifying existing policies as employees have had to work from home.

· 46% of employers say they are not sure or have no clue what social media apps their employees are using on work devices.

· 56% of employees say their company has not issued new guidelines on the use of social media apps on devices.

There are specific actions that all companies can take to protect their employees, customers, and businesses, including:

  1. Provide company-owned devices to all employees.
  2. Develop comprehensive policies that address the personal use of work devices.
  3. Conduct ongoing employee education initiatives focused on the risks of using social media applications on work devices.

More resources are available to help SMB owners manage the security challenges of a remote workforce.

The Cyber Readiness Institute

The Cyber Readiness Institute is a non-profit initiative that convenes business leaders from across sectors and geographic regions to share resources and knowledge that inform the development of
free cybersecurity tools for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Our Remote Work Resources are available in Spanish and French. The self-guided, online Cyber Readiness Program is available in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Japanese.


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