64% of Singapore workers share critical data via messaging apps: Veritas

While 24 per cent were reproved, 75 per cent said they will continue the use of these tools

64 per cent of Singapore office worker employees have admitted to sharing sensitive and business-critical company data using instant messaging (IM) and business collaboration tools. However, Singapore workers still have better cybersecurity hygiene than other countries in the APAC region, found a survey by Veritas Technologies, a global leader in data protection.

The Veritas Hidden Threat of Business Collaboration Report, which polled 12,500 office workers across ten countries, including 500 from Singapore.

Among all the workers surveyed, 54 per cent are saving their own copies of the information they share over Instant Messaging apps, while, conversely, 53% of knowledge workers delete it entirely. Either approach could leave companies open to significant fines if regulators ask to see a paper trail.

Sensitive data being shared by employees on these channels includes client information (15%), details on HR issues (13%), contracts (13%), business plans (12%), and even COVID-19 test results (10%), with only 36% employees suggesting that they hadn’t shared anything that could be compromising.

The research also reveals that, while employees are using collaboration tools to close deals, process orders and agree pay raises, many are doing this despite believing that there will be no formal record of the discussion or agreement. In fact, only 52% thought that the businesses they worked for were saving this information.

Andy Ng, Vice President and Managing Director for Asia South and Pacific Region at Veritas Technologies, said: “Many businesses have been caught off guard by the global pandemic at the start of 2020. To minimise work disruptions and keep up with the new work model, companies are rushing to bolster their data protection and discovery strategies to include the platforms where their business is actually being done.”

Indeed, due to the sudden shift to online working during the pandemic, a significant amount of business is now being conducted as routine on these channels and employees are taking agreements as binding. For example, as a result of receiving information over messaging and collaboration tools, 24 per cent of employees have accepted and processed an order, 20% have accepted a reference for a job candidate and 18% have accepted a signed version of a contract.

Sensitive data is being shared on these tools in spite of the fact that 24 per cent of knowledge workers have been reprimanded by bosses for their use of them. These admonishments may have been in vain, however, as 75 per cent of all workers responding to the survey said that they would share this kind of information in the future.

Ng said: “Our message to bosses is simple: don’t fight it – fix it. It is proving to be an uphill battle to restrict employees to ‘approved’ methods of communication and collaboration tools. It will be more effective to adopt proactive measures that will help to regain control of information sharing.”

IM apps trusted nearly as much as emails

The ability to archive business discussions as evidence is crucial to ensuring that an agreement is binding. However, many workers do not appear to trust methods of communications based on this ability.

In the survey, email is viewed as the most reliable affirmation of an agreement at 98 per cent, followed by written letter at 95 per cent and electronic signature at 93 per cent.

Worriyngly, IM was still trusted by 93 per cent, SMS text by 90 per cent and WhatsApp by 87 per cent. 63 per cent even viewed social media as reliable proof that something has been agreed

Ng said: “With work-from-everywhere, business data is sprawling across different locations. Deals are closed, orders processed and sensitive personnel information are being shared on collaboration platforms. It is a business imperative for companies to incorporate the management of this data deluge into their protection and compliance strategies. The implications could be huge if they fail to do so.”

Singapore as the more security-aware APAC country

The research also shows that countries differ in their level of cybersecurity awareness.

34 per cent of workers would accept an order over an instant messaging app and start processing it globally. But regional differences exist – 49 per cent in China would action the sale, but only 35 per cent in Singapore and South Korea would do the same

While more than 70 per cent office workers in China and South Kore save their own copies of information shared over instant messaging apps, only 54 per cent of employees in Singapore do the same.

Willingness to use business applications for personal purposes also varied significantly. 42 per cent of Singapore employees have used corporate applications for personal conversations compared to 57 per cent of employees in both China and South Korea.

30 per cent of respondents having been reprimanded by their employer for their IM use. The number increases to 40 per cent in South Korea but goes down to 24 per cent in Singapore.

Veritas recommends the following steps for businesses that want to regain control of data being shared over messaging and collaboration tools:

  1. Standardise on a set of collaboration and messaging tools that meet the needs of the business – this will limit the sprawl.
  2. Create a policy for information sharing – this will help control the sharing of sensitive information
  3. Train all employees on the policies and tools that are being deployed – this will help to reduce accidental policy breaches
  4. Incorporate the data sets from collaboration and messaging tools into the businesses’ data management strategy using eDiscovery and SaaS data backup solutions – this will empower users to make the most of the tools without putting the business at risk.


KR | CH | JP | TW | HK

When: 20-22 April 2021

Where: Online

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