What are we doing, or not doing, that makes a mobile device vulnerable? Velera Wilson, Lead Marketing Manager, Mobile Device Management Solutions, AT&T Business Mobility suggests there are five basic assumptions that make the mobile device less secure – some of us have even been guilty of them one time or another.
Mobile security has become a hyper-sensitive topic in many business conversations today. A CIO magazine article headline in January proclaiming ‘Mobile Attacks Top the List of 2013 Security Threats’ echoes this sentiment and a report by the Ponemon Institute states that 60 percent of breaches are attributed to mobile devices.
With so many breaches occurring, what is the basic assumption we have about mobile device security? It appears that we believe the device in our hand is trustworthy, reliable and available for use anywhere, at any time. Isn’t that what all the advertisements say? To a large degree, the claims are true. However, it appears that we make grave assumptions about mobile device security and as a result are not as careful to protect the device and its content.
When you consider that many employees are now using personal mobile devices for work, these assumptions about device security can directly affect organizations because device behavior may not change once the employee enters the workplace. So, whether the employee is given a corporate-owned device or brings their own (a trend known as BYOD), their lack of knowledge and incorrect assumptions about the device may lead to increased security risk for the organization.
What makes a mobile device vulnerable?
These are the five basic assumptions users tend to make about mobile device security.
• A device password is inconvenient - This is the basic way to protect the device and yet, recent studies shows that about 30 percent of mobile device users simply don’t put a password on their device. Users who don’t have a password and are accessing corporate information are putting their organization at risk.
• Wi-Fi is safe - Mobile users access public Wi-Fi when they are out, not realizing even public Wi-Fi with passwords can pose risks. Others may be able to peer into the device without their knowledge.
• All apps are trustworthy - Some users assume that all applications are legitimate. However, criminals increasingly use fake applications as a way to compromise devices.
• Device updates are not critical - Most devices periodically send software updates, yet not all users proactively activate the updates, leaving the device vulnerable to the latest malware attacks.
• It won’t happen to me - This is probably the worst assumption, as devices are not only breached or stolen, but even more commonly are lost. Once a device is lost or stolen, all personal or organizational data becomes vulnerable to misuse.
Protect with mobile device management
Any suggestion that users should stop using Wi-Fi or downloading applications would be laughed out of the room. Rather, people should take precautions when using mobile devices instead of making assumptions that their devices are inherently secure, because in reality they are not. There will always be the ‘human factor’ element – not everyone will take the same level of precaution when using their device. As a result, it would be wise for organizations to realize the need to protect their data, rather than rely entirely on employees.
Solutions such as mobile device management (MDM) offer basic protection for organizations while allowing employees to maintain productivity away from the office. MDM continues to evolve to not only protect the device, but also the applications and content. This is evolving into mobile enterprise management to encompass a holistic mobile strategy. Individual users should be mindful of security precautions when using mobile devices, but, if all else fails, organizations should protect their critical data before they expose themselves to serious consequences.
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