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IT Pros Blind to Many Unauthorized App Downloads
By Kate Kunkel
September 04, 2012 - News
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Here's a scary thought for IT professionals: A new survey finds that more than three-quarters of them (76 percent) don't know how many unauthorized application downloads lurk within their networks.

While IT pros do recognize the dangers that these applications cause to their networks, most are letting them go unnoticed, according to the survey released by Avecto. The study surveyed more than 1,500 IT professionals, many of whom hold decision-making and purchasing power in a wide array of work environments, vertical sectors and job functions.

The survey showed how unmanaged and infected applications can potentially sneak onto networks, wreaking havoc before being noticed. This disconnect suggests that organizations will continue to invite infection to their networks if they provide excessive administrator rights to users, the study says. This is especially problematic with younger workers demanding elevated rights on corporate PCs.

Among the survey’s notable findings:

  • More than one-third of respondents had first-hand experience with the dangers of elevated admin rights, with nearly 40 percent reporting a network infection as a result of at least one unauthorized application being downloaded on their network.
     
  • Male employees from ages 20 to 35 made up 80 percent of those most likely to demand elevated rights. A troubling trend emerges in which younger workers have potentially dangerous expectations regarding technology and the workplace.
     
  • IT professionals are largely aware of the benefits of removing admin rights, and more than 50 percent of respondents would expect a decrease in support calls and affiliated costs as a direct result of removing admin rights. Yet, many feel mounting pressure from younger, tech-savvy employees for full administrator rights.

“Staff who have admin rights can unwittingly or irresponsibly download applications that contain malware and cause significant problems if entered into the corporate network," said Paul Kenyon, Avecto co-founder and chief operating officer. “The answer is simple – don’t give admin rights out to everyone, only to the few key IT administrators who really need them. "You will see an immediate decrease in security risk and associated downtime as well as an increase in productivity from IT."

Kenyon also said these findings reveal the impact of "Gen Y," a technically-savvy generation that grew up in an online world.

Windows desktops that run with full administrator rights will continue to put organizations at risk of infection as the sophistication of privilege escalation malware continues to evolve, the study goes on to say. Once malware gains access to administrator rights, it will continue to burrow deeper into the organization’s infrastructure.

Using a flexible approach to privilege management, organizations can deploy secure and compliant desktops without compromising users’ ability to perform their day-to-day role. With this approach, users are empowered with the privileges they require, resulting in increased productivity and reduced desktop support costs, Avecto said.

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