Its Time to Think Mobile

Its Time to Think Mobile

Device security is key to ensuring safety of critical business networks and data

Today, it is not uncommon to see business conducted beyond the walls of an office building. In fact, many employees are escaping the confines of their cubes by using smartphones, tablets and other devices as their primary business communication tools. While these devices enable greater employee productivity and collaboration, mobile communication also comes with its own inherent security risks— risks that cannot be ignored.

While PC devices receive their fair share of cyberattacks, mobile devices are no different. As mobile technologies and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies continue to infiltrate businesses more and more, so do the threats of attacks on these corporate networks.

The new reality is that cybercriminals are now targeting all facets of mobile communication, including texting or Short Message Service (SMS), Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), email and Wi-Fi networking. With communication being one of the largest pillars supporting successful business efforts, one effective cyberattack could cause turmoil to an entire business model.

Identify the Threats

Some of the most common mobile security threats include virus transfers through web traffic and phishing scams. For instance, phishing scams, which seem to have become a staple in today’s news headlines, now come via email, text messages and even social media. Every day it seems more and more individuals are tricked into disclosing personal information, such as banking numbers and passwords, under the false pretenses of a disguised malicious website.

Drive-by downloads have evolved to target mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets. Considering the web browsing that an employee may do on his or her mobile device in any given day, this can be one of the most crippling threats a business may face. When an individual visits a malicious web page, a foreign application is unknowingly downloaded to his or her device and can remain there, unnoticed, as the cybercriminal gains direct access to critical data, information and applications.

Another popular mobile threat focuses in on the use of public Wi-Fi networks. With people traveling day after day for business, public Wi-Fi has often been seen as a necessity for working “road warriors.” Without the same security measures of a fortified business network, public Wi-Fi networks increase the chances of data security breaches by giving cybercriminals direct access to devices and company networks.

Networking threats aren’t strictly limited to public Wi-Fi networks, either. As employees open, edit and send company documents through their personal mobile devices, they also unknowingly increase their chances of infecting their devices with malicious malware. If just one of those documents carries malware or other viruses, a mobile device is immediately compromised as soon as the document is opened.

And, let’s not forget about the age-old threat of a missing or stolen device. With the amount of business and employee data available on a device, this can easily become an IT professional’s worst nightmare. If the device contains sensitive corporate information, whether customer data or network applications, the security door has been left wide open, with much more at risk than just a stolen piece of equipment.

Be Proactive, Not Reactive

While the need to heighten security is clear, the problem is that most businesses don’t know where to start when it comes to mobile security. Arguably the most important factor is a proactive, rather than reactive, approach. Once an employee’s mobile device or the network has encountered a breach, CIOs and IT directors are already forced into a reactive, scurrying mode. By cutting costs and minimizing security budgets, a business may save a little money in the short term, but increase the risk of losing much more in the long term. The need to protect business, employee and customer data should drive all security strategies for networking, PCs and mobile devices.

Mobile communication is an extension of the business, and should be viewed as such. Mobile device protection should be handled in the same manner as that of traditional office desktops and PCs. One option of remaining proactive with mobile security is employee education; educating them on the risks of using their smartphones or tablets for business communication and their responsibility to adhering to a company-wide BYOD policy. This is particularly important for employees exchanging credit card information over their devices and for those who work within the government or health sectors where security, confidentiality and privacy remain top priorities.

An ideal BYOD policy should outline not only the “acceptable” mobile devices, but should also clearly define who will be handling activation/deactivation procedures, password management and software updates.

Opt for Scalability

The good news is that industry-leading, enterpriselevel security solutions are readily available and often offer a layered approach to ensure that networks, mobile devices and data are protected from all angles.

Think of security as a door that opens and closes. Once someone is allowed to enter through the security door, there are still typically other clearance levels and authorizations in place on the inside to ensure that person is allowed to be there. A scaled security product goes several levels deep to help protect corporate networks from intruders that may sneak in through the front (or even the back). By focusing the same level of attention and applying the same type of advanced security measures to employee mobile devices, organizations are far better equipped to fight off cyber threats.

Much like a business and its customers, security is a partnership. Your employees and security solution vendors must be a part of the conversation, the relationship. If you are not driving toward the same goal, then you are opening your business up to unwanted risks.

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Security Today.

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