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Virtually any IT trend will inevitably have a powerful impact on the realm of cybersecurity. Whether it’s the introduction of a new technology or a new IT behavior or both, businesses need to account for the cybersecurity impact of any IT development.
This is especially true when it comes to mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have reached nearly universal adoption rates, and countless employees regularly turn to their personal devices for work-related purposes. This can have a number of major benefits, including improved productivity, job satisfaction and worker availability. However, the bring-your-own-device trend also presents huge cybersecurity risks, and many companies have not yet adopted the policies needed to ward off these threats.
The biggest issue when it comes to mobile cyber safety is not that these devices are inherently risky, but rather that many employees fail to recognize and account for the biggest dangers.
“More than one-third of smartphone users did not implement any mobile cybersecurity efforts.”
Most notably, individuals generally do not password-protect their smartphones. A recent study from Consumer Reports found that only 36 percent of smartphone owners established a screen lock with a 4-digit PIN, and only 11 percent used more complex passwords. More than one-third of participants did not implement any mobile cybersecurity efforts whatsoever. These low figures are especially troubling because 1.4 million Americans lost and never recovered their smartphones in 2013, and 3.1 million had their mobile devices stolen.
This means that millions of individuals’ smartphones are falling into unauthorized users’ hands every year, and a huge percentage of these devices will be immediately accessible to whoever happens to be in possession at the time.
This would only be a consumer issue if not for BYOD. According to a recent Aruba Networks survey of 11,500 people around the world, more than 80 percent of respondents use their smartphones for work. When this is the case, the devices in question will almost certainly contain sensitive corporate information, including intellectual property. If such a device is lost and lacks password protection – as is likely – then the company will immediately have a data breach on its hands.
This issue is likely to become increasingly important in the coming years. The Aruba Networks survey found that millennials are particularly risky in terms of their mobile behavior. About 60 percent of study participants in this demographic regularly shared their work and personal mobile devices with others, and one-fifth of these individuals failed to use device passwords.
As millennials continue to enter the workforce in growing numbers, this cybersecurity risk will grow in importance.
Business leaders must take steps to ensure their employees understand the risks associated with mobile device usage while enforcing more stringent policies and leveraging tools to better protect these assets. To this end, decision-makers will need to turn to cybersecurity experts for support and guidance.
Excelsior College offers both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in cyber security which will prepare you to be a leader in the field. Click here to learn more.