New research by Veritas Technologies highlights the damage that workplace blame cultures are having on the success of cloud adoption, which found that businesses are losing critical data, such as customer orders and financial data, because office workers are too scared or too embarrassed to report data loss or ransomware issues when using cloud applications, such as Microsoft Office 365.
Among the latest Veritas findings, half (50 per cent) of office workers have accidentally deleted files hosted in the cloud – such as business documents, presentations and spreadsheets. The report also gathered that as many as 14 per cent of office workers do so multiple times per week.
Businesses need to help, not blame, employees when data is lost or encrypted by hackers as a result of employee action, according to Pete Murray, managing director, ANZ at Veritas.
“There’s often a short window where businesses can act to minimise the impact of deleting or corrupting the cloud-based data.
"Leaders need to motivate employees to come forward as soon as possible so IT teams can take remedial action quickly.
"It’s clear from this research that shaming and punishment are not ideal ways to do that,” Murray said.
Employees scared to admit mistakes
The Veritas research revealed that almost a third (28 per cent) of employees lied to cover up the fact they had accidentally deleted data they stored in shared cloud drives.
While 42 per cent said no one noticed their error, in the cases where the accidents were discovered, 18 per cent of respondents reported the data was no longer recoverable.
When asked why they had failed to own up to their errors, 26 per cent of respondents said that they kept quiet because they were ashamed, 18 per cent said because they were frightened of the consequences and 3 per cent said because they have been in trouble with their IT departments before.
Employees are even less forthcoming with ransomware incidents. Veritas researchers have discovered that 31 per cent of respondents said they would immediately confess mistakes that introduced ransomware into their organisations, another 30 per cent said they would either do nothing or pretend it hadn’t happened, and 30 per cent said they would omit their own guilt as they report the incident.
Murray added that employees are increasingly reliant on cloud-based technologies to get their work done.
“Today, 37 per cent of office workers store data in cloud folders assigned to them, 25 per cent in folders that sync to the cloud and 21 per cent in cloud folders that they share with their teams.
"Unfortunately, with more people accessing cloud drives, the more opportunities there are for individuals to avoid suspicion or pass the blame.
"However, without knowing the full details of who caused a ransomware attack, plus how and when, it’s much harder to limit its impact,” Murray said.
The cloud enables false confidence
The research also highlighted that employees do not have a clear understanding of how much help the cloud companies hosting their files would be in the event that their data is lost.
Veritas discovered that nearly all employees (92 per cent) thought their cloud provider would be able to restore their files for them, either from a cloud copy, their "deleted items" folder or a backup. A further 13 per cent thought their "deleted items" would be available to them in the cloud for at least a year after the data is lost.
Storing data in the cloud doesn’t automatically make it safe, it still requires strong data protection, with almost half (43 per cent) of office workers thinking data in the cloud is safer from ransomware because they assume their cloud providers are protecting it from malware they might accidentally introduce, Murray continued.
“This is a misconception that will continue to put businesses at risk until it’s thoroughly debunked.
"The truth is that, as part of their standard service, most cloud providers only provide guarantee of resiliency of their service, they do not provide guarantees that a customer, using their service, will have their data protected.
"In fact, many go as far to have shared-responsibility models in their terms and conditions, which make it clear that the customer’s data is their responsibility to protect," Murray said.
Data loss causes employees to snap
With today’s culture of shame, data loss is impacting employee wellbeing, with 29 per cent of office workers reporting using profanity as they lost data, 11 per cent have lashed out and broken something and 16 per cent have been reduced to tears.
According to Veritas researchers, losing work-related data or introducing ransomware are two of the most stressful experiences for office workers – more stressful than a first date, a job interview or sitting for an exam.
While many office workers believe it’s going to be easy to get data back from the company providing their cloud service – in reality, that’s not their job, according to Murray.
"As a result, 51 per cent of respondents to our survey said they’d accidentally deleted a file in the cloud and were never able to get it back."
"It’s every business’ responsibility to protect their own data, whether in the cloud or stored on their own devices."
"If they can get that right and make it easy for workers to restore lost files, then they can take the pressure off their employees. Blaming people doesn’t help – backing up your data however, does,” Murray concluded.
Nastasha is a Journalist at Momentum Media, she reports extensively across veterans affairs, cyber security and geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific. She is a co-author of a book titled The Stories Women Journalists Tell, published by Penguin Random House. Previously, she was a Content Producer at Verizon Media, a Digital Producer for Yahoo! and Channel 7, a Digital Journalist at Sky News Australia, as well as a Website Manager and Digital Producer at SBS Australia. Nastasha started her career in media as a Video Producer and Digital News Presenter at News Corp Australia.