Mobile devices are everywhere in the workplace. Chances are, they're everywhere in your workplace too - no matter whether you like it or not. So, as every smart phone is a powerful computer in its own right, should you be thinking about mobile security?
A change driven by BYOD
As mobile devices became more popular for personal use, the trend of 'bring your own device' (BYOD) started to emerge.
BYOD is when your employees use their personal mobile devices for work. For instance: checking their company email while out and about, or accessing your CRM software from their tablet.
Some companies have embraced BYOD, encouraged by the chance to increase productivity without spending a fortune on smart phones. Besides, businesses without a BYOD policy often find BYOD happens anyway, as staff members act on their own initiatives.
This added flexibility brings with new challenges for smaller companies. As an increasing number of devices are used to access company information, the number of opportunities for viruses, hackers and other threats increases, too.
Cyber-criminals target smaller companies
It's a mistake to think cyber-criminals won't be interested in your small company. As IT Donut has mentioned before, hackers often see smaller firms as attractive targets, because they have smaller IT security budgets.
What's more, cyber-criminals are increasingly choosing to focus on mobile devices. US statistics suggest that the amount of malicious software aimed at mobile devices has risen 185% in less than a year.
Why? Well, mobile devices are tempting because they're vulnerable. One survey found that over 80% of smaller businesses were not interested in information about managing the information security of mobile devices.
Mobile devices lack security
Mobile devices were conceived as consumer products. This means they have little security built in. As a result, it may be much easier to spread malware via mobile devices than via desktop computers.
And - of course - it's easy to lose a mobile device. When you leave your smart phone on the train or in a bar (or have it stolen), you don't just lose the device. You risk losing the data on it, too.
It's also wise to be aware of how employees' regard security while they are out of the office. For instance, is it easy for strangers to read company information over their shoulder while they're on a train?
Solving mobile device security
The worst thing your can do is bury your head in the sand. Mobile working is here and bigger than ever, so you must create a security strategy that incorporates these handheld powerhouses. You can ignore the cyber-criminals, but they might not ignore you.
Take some time to assess the specific risks your business faces. For instance, who uses mobile devices in your company? What do they use them for? What sort of data could you lose, and where might it end up?
You can then introduce a mobile usage strategy to secure those devices and manage these devices.
Importantly, make sure you have a way to disable and wipe each device if it is lost or stolen. Mobile device management (MDM) software can help you manage the security of devices centrally (and can sometimes even cover those owned by employees), so you might consider this as an option.
Furthermore, make sure mobile apps are checked for malware, and look at installing security software on your devices.
Importantly, don't forget the human factor. Make sure members of staff receive IT training so they understand the risks of mobile security and can help your business avoid issues.
For instance, reporting a lost device promptly can make a big difference as to whether data falls into the wrong hands.
Evaluate security software carefully
One of the challenges facing smaller companies concerned about mobile security is that software in this area tends to be aimed at bigger businesses. However, a good IT supplier should be able to identify software that fits your needs well.
In the current climate, it would be naive to ignore mobile security. However, with a little thought, there is nothing to stop you making BYOD work safely for your business - leading to a happier, more flexible and efficient workforce.
Copyright ©2015 Albie Attias, Head of Business Development at progressive technology provider Evaris.