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Manage Your Mobile Risk

by Maroushka Kanywani, Editor, Dashboard InsightFriday, November 21, 2008

By Matt Bancroft, Chief Marketing Officer, Mformation

Mobile devices get smarter every day, and more of us than ever depend on them. But there is a drawback to our increasing dependence on smart mobile devices--they have the potential to be even more risky than laptop computers.

This risk is due to two key factors. First, users tend to be as careful with their mobile devices as they are with their laptops, and second, security solutions (encryption, antivirus, etc.) are not as pervasively deployed on mobile devices as they are on laptop computers.

A recent survey from Credant Technologies found that a staggering 94 per cent of the IT security professionals surveyed now believe that mobile devices pose more of a security risk to companies than mobile storage devices (88 per cent) or laptops (79 per cent).

To add to that, a recent series of online workshops and surveys conducted by IT research firm Freeform Dynamics, which gathered input from both IT and business professionals, revealed that the attitude of mobile users to security is either poor or variable in 80 per cent of organizations. Only one IT security professional in five indicated that users have a consistently good attitude towards mobile security.

A 2007 study commissioned in part by the National Cyber Security Alliance appears to bear out the above. The study was based on interviews with 700 mobile workers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, India, South Korea, and Singapore. Among the findings:

- 73 per cent of the mobile workers surveyed said they aren't always aware of security threats and best practices when working on the go.
- Nearly 30 per cent of the mobile workers admitted that they "hardly ever" consider security risks and proper preventative behavior.

With an increasing number of smart mobile devices playing an ever more important role in businesses of all types, it is time that we considered some of the "stupid" things people do with their mobile phones--some of which they would never consider doing with their laptops--and what companies can (or cannot) do to protect users from themselves.

#1: Disabling the lock feature on the phone and/or not establishing a password to unlock an idled phone

This is how lost mobiles become dangerous mobiles. Because they are so small and so portable, mobile phones are easier to misplace or steal than laptops. The numbers are staggering. According to a survey commissioned by Pointsec, 85,000 mobile phones and 21,000 PDAs and smartphones were left in taxis in Chicago over a 6-month period in 2007. The survey also found that more than 63,000 mobile phones and 5,800 PDAs and smartphones were left in London taxis during the same 6-month period.

According to the Credent Technologies survey mentioned earlier, even given these types of loss statistics, over half of the supposedly security-conscious respondents (56 per cent) surprisingly confessed to 'not bothering' to use a password every time they used their own mobile device or smartphone. This is the most basic security precaution for mobile devices and often the first line in defense.

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