Despite popular assumptions that security risks increase as a person's online activity becomes shadier, findings from the Cisco 2013 Annual Security Report (ASR) reveal that the highest concentration of online security threats tend to target legitimate destinations visited by mass audiences -- such as major search engines, retail sites and social media outlets.
Cisco found that online shopping sites are 21 times as likely, and search engines are 27 times as likely, to deliver malicious content than a counterfeit software site.
Security risks rise in businesses because many employees adopt "my way" work lifestyles in which their devices, work and online behavior mix with their personal lives virtually anywhere -- in the office, at home and everywhere in between.
The business security implications of this "consumerization" trend are magnified by a second set of findings from the Cisco Connected World Technology Report (CCWTR), which provides insight into the attitudes of the world's next generation of workers, Generation Y.
Why Today's Security Policies Must Evolve
According to the study, most Generation Y employees believe the age of privacy is over (91%), but one third say that they are not worried about all the data that is stored and captured about them. They are willing to sacrifice personal information for socialization online.
In fact, more Generation Y workers globally said they feel more comfortable sharing personal information with retail sites than with their own employers' IT departments -- the group that's paid to protect employee identities and devices.
As Generation Y graduates from college and enters the workforce in greater numbers, they test corporate cultures and policies with expectations of social media freedom, device choice, and mobile lifestyles that the generations before them never demanded.
As the first chapter of the Connected World Technology Report indicated in December, Gen Y is constantly checking social media, email and text updates, whether it's in bed (3 of 4 surveyed globally), at the dinner table (almost half), in the bathroom (1 of 3), or driving (1 of 5).
That lifestyle is entering work environments in greater numbers, spotlighting the future of work and how companies must consider competing for the next wave of talent. But what the security studies show is the next-generation workforce's lifestyles are also introducing security challenges that companies have never had to address on this scale.
Are You Ready for Tomorrow's Security Challenges?
Looking ahead, the Internet of Everything represents the largest online trend today.
As more people, things and devices connect to the Internet, more data from more places will be introduced across corporate and service provider networks -- which open up new vulnerabilities and a need for more sophisticated security approaches.
- Exponentially more machine-to-machine (M2M) connections are coming online each day, leading to a proliferation of endpoints that extend far beyond mobile devices, laptops and desktops to an "any-to-any" scenario in which any device can connect to any cloud to any application across any network.
- By 2020, with an Internet open to an estimated 50 billion things, the number of connections balloons to more than 13 quadrillion (specifically, 13,311,666,640,184,600). Adding just one more "thing" (50 billion + 1) will increase the number of potential connections by another 50 billion.
- These new connections generate data in motion that needs to be protected in real time as it is evaluated for actionable insights through the network and before it's compromised and causes irreparable damages.
- For network security professionals, the focus becomes content-neutral plumbing -- shifting from the endpoint and the periphery to the network.
"Each year, the security threats and defenses change as a result of one another. The Cisco Annual Security Report is our expert research, highlighting global threat patterns and trends. When combined with findings from the Cisco Connected World Technology Report and how the next-generation workforce views security, there are unique, troubling and informative correlations and conclusions. Today, we live a blended work-personal life," said John N. Stewart, senior vice president, chief security officer, Global Government and Corporate Security, Cisco.
Stewart added, "The hackers know this, and the security threats that we encounter online such as embedded Web malware while visiting popular destinations like search engines, retailers, social media sites and smartphone or tablet apps no longer threaten only the individual; they threaten our organizations by default. This year's ASR highlights this and other trends while providing the hard data, and ideas, for how we should be approaching security today."