The Cybersecurity Threat of Business Collaboration Tools

According to Veritas Technologies’ recent research, U.S. workers increased their use of instant messaging (IM), and other collaboration tools, by 13% in the first year following the COVID-19 pandemic. The return to normal work practices is now in doubt with the Delta variant. You can expect more employees to use alternative communication channels, as it seems that long-term remote work (multi-year) is possible.

Why should you be concerned?

This survey revealed that 68% of U.S. workers share sensitive and critical company data via these tools. 58% of respondents said they keep their copies, and 51% deleted any business information they shared via IM. The ever-present risk of data breaches and government intervention means that any of the above data management methods could expose your company to substantial fines if regulators request a paper trail.

The Danger Doesn’t End There.

Employees spend an average of two and a quarter hours each day using apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, with 27% spending more than half of their workweek using them.

Employees shared sensitive client information (13%), details about HR issues (10%) (contracts (10%)), business plans (10%), and even COVID-19 results (12%) with each other over messaging and collaboration tools. Only a third of employees said they hadn’t shared any information that could compromise their safety.

Many businesses now use these channels, and employees consider agreements binding. For example, 24% have accepted and processed orders, 25% have received a reference for job candidates, and 20% have signed a contract. Research also showed that employees use these tools to make deals, process orders, and agree to raises. However, many people believe that there is no record of such discussions or agreements. Only 56% of respondents said that their employers were saving this information.

When asked what communication methods provide the best evidence that an agreement is binding, the responses did not seem to be based upon the ability of businesses to capture the discussion.

Email is trusted by 96% and text by 89%, respectively. An electronic signature is used at 95%. However, 93% trusted IM and 89% text. Social media was also trusted by 68&

Reducing the Risk

Even though 39% of employees said their leaders had reprimanded the practice, 39% admitted that they still allow sensitive data to be shared with these tools by employees. However, these warnings may have been in vain, as 75% of employees said they would continue to share sensitive data with these tools.

Limiting employees to specific communication methods is not effective. Instead, please fix it.

How do you fix it?

Reclaim control of company data that employees share via collaboration and messaging tools.

  • Listening is more important than standardizing. Listen to your employees before you standardize on a set of collaboration and messaging tools. Your tools may be “fitting the needs of the company,” but are they meeting the needs of your employees? It will be helpful to discuss with your employees what collaboration and messaging tools they want before drawing the line.
  • Create a policy on information sharing. Are there any information employees are prohibited from sharing over certain messaging or collaboration tools? Your employees should be made aware of this, but they may also be open to sharing other information using the most familiar tools. Flexibility and a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities will allow you to control sensitive information being shared on no-go tools.
  • All employees should be trained on policies and tools – This should not be a surprise. Still, employees often share unauthorized information over unauthorized applications because they don’t fully understand the available tools.
  • It is crucial to invite employees into the conversation about the collaboration and messaging tools they use. This could mean that you have to rethink data protection and compliance. You might even need to invest in tools to help you integrate the data sets from all the collaboration and messaging tools your employees use into your data protection. Archiving, e-discovery and data protection strategies. This is the most crucial and effective way to empower users to use the tools they need without putting the business at stake.

The proliferation of business data is a trend that started before the pandemic but has seen a dramatic increase in its use. Orders are being placed, deals are being made, and sensitive personnel information can be shared via an unprecedented array of messaging and collaboration tools. This rapidly increasing volume of data is vitally important to include in your company’s compliance and data protection envelope.

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