In the UK, the rate of successful ‘visual hacks' — many achieved by viewing people's computer screens — was 87 percent. The worldwide average is 91 percent.


The Ponemon Institute, with sponsorship from 3M Company, conducted a study in eight countries and discovered that 25 percent of successful visual hacks were achieved because computer screens were not protected. The ‘White hat hacker' was confronted only 32 percent of the time in a global average.


Of all information deemed sensitive, 44 percent was from this method, which was better than the global average of 52 percent or in Germany (33 percent). Sensitive information gathered included login details, financial and other sensitive information including contact lists and customer data. In the UK, 51 percent of successful hacks took 15 minutes or less.


Office functions that were easiest to hack were sales, customer services and communications, followed by accounting and finance and then human resources. Legal, quality assurance and R&D were the most secure. In the UK, hackers were not confronted in 61 percent of the cases compared to the global average of 68 percent.

A global average reduction in successful hacks  26 percent visual security practices such as workplace monitoring and surveillance, training and awareness programmes, shredding processes and clean desk policies.


“The results highlight that visual hacking is a problem in the UK and also worldwide. It also happened very quickly and it proved alarmingly easy to obtain all kinds of sensitive information in the experiment. However, where visual hacking prevention measures are in place, the risk drops by more than a quarter. Clearly, UK organisations would benefit by building visual hacking prevention strategies into their security policies,” said Peter Barker, market development manager, EMEA at 3M Display Material and Systems Division.


Further details of the experiment will be shared at the Future of Work conference in London on 23 June.