Why mobile employees shouldn’t pose a security risk

Posted: September 29, 2011 in Endpoint Management, IT policy, Mobile
Tags: , , , , ,

By Bernd Reder

All signs point towards mobility. This is true for all tech scenarios—personal and business. According to an IDC study, 119.7 million U.S. employees will be classified as mobile workers in 2013. This is 75.5 percent of the U.S. workforce, far more than in any other country of the world.

The benefits of mobile computing are clear:

  • Employees are more flexible because they can work on the road or at home, with the same efficiency as the company office.
  • Waiting times (for example, at the airport) can be used productively.
  • The company’s agility increases because the employees can be contacted more easily, and decisions can be made faster.
  • Employees are more content because they have flexibility.

Higher Risks

In many cases companies pay dearly for these benefits by accepting higher risks. IT security company MessageLabs conducted a study that showed that employees who work from their offices and from home or the road trigger five times as many security alerts as their office-bound colleagues. One of the reasons is that they access the company network via hotspots at airports or in coffee shops.

Additionally, mobile employees access more websites that do not relate to their jobs when working at home or on the road. They access, for example, online shopping sites or auction houses. Doing so, they increase their chances of landing on contaminated sites.

It is clear that such behavior poses security risks. According to a Ponemon Institute report, the financial damage resulting from loss or theft of company data is at $214 per data set. Each U.S. company has to pay, on average, $ 7.2 million to clean up the damage done by a data breach. This also includes things like loss of image, disappointed customers who turn towards the competition and various fines.

Simple Precaution Measures

However, it is possible to mitigate the risks of mobile employees. For instance, it’s important to secure all communication mediums that mobile employees use for remotely accessing the company network: wireless LAN, fixed networks and mobile networks. The best solution is a remote access solution that automatically identifies the available communication mediums and selects the most appropriate one.

Apart from that, remote access should be secured by strong authentication and a dynamic personal firewall at the end device. The firewall should also be able to select the appropriate security settings for each communication medium.

Furthermore, it is crucial that all company data must be encrypted if it is stored locally on smartphones, tablet PCs or notebooks. This allows the data to stay secure, even if the device is stolen or lost. In addition, the mobile system should also offer a remote wipe option, a service provided in mobile device management solutions.

Business Data in a VM

Companies that allow their mobile employees to use personal devices for business purposes can even go a step further. They can include the option to install a virtual machine (VM) with a dedicated working environment.

This virtual desktop is only used for business applications and data that are hermetically sealed off from private data and applications. The company’s IT administrator centrally manages the virtual machine. Such virtual desktops are available for notebooks, while companies like VMware have already developed prototypes for smartphones.

The bottom line is, there are plenty of ways to minimize the dangers that can result from remotely access company data and applications. For a company, the benefits far outweigh the costs of not investing in the proper security measures.

Comments
  1. […] Virtual desktops allow employees to remotely access their traditional systems from any location, eliminating device storage concerns as well as numerous other headaches for IT managers. For example, if the IT department had to install a suitable desktop environment on every device used by every employee throughout the company, then provide technical support and roll out regular patches for each one, the workload would likely far exceed the department’s capacity. […]

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