Should Businesses Fear iPads & Smartphones?

    November 20, 2011
    Chris Crum

You know how when something happens in the world and it immediately hits the Internet in near realtime via Twitter or other social media? Say there’s a plane crash. Today, there’s a high probability this will make its way to the web pretty quickly, whether that be in the form of text, photos or videos. This is the era we live in .

Well, what if your business secrets could end up on the web just as quickly and as easily? Possibly without your even knowing about it until it’s too late?

Should businesses fear personal mobile devices in the workplace? Share your thoughts on the subject.

A lot of businesses have secrets that they don’t want getting out, whether that be plans, competitive strategy, private conversations, or any number of things. Now consider all of the things you can do with a smartphone or a tablet. There are apps for all kinds of things that have possibly never even crossed your mind, but the obvious features are cameras microphones, coupled with the fact that it’s just become so common for people to carry these things around.

The likelihood that you will have to deal with some malicious act related to these capabilities is pretty slim, but there are other security issues that can come into play, when businesses allow employees to work from their personal mobile devices.

Paranoid yet?

The reality is that these devices are a part of life now, and a part of business, for that matter. There are so many ways mobile devices can help your business, it would take a lengthy book to really cover it all.

But research shows a lot of businesses are hesitant to implement policies for employees to work remotely via their own personal devices.

SecureData commissioned a survey by Vanson Bourne Omnibus, asking 100 IT managers (in large UK enterprises of more than 1,000 employees) of financial services, manufacturing, retail, distribution/transport and commercial companies about the security risks of “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes.”

Granted, while this survey is geared toward the enterprise, it’s a subject that can really apply to any size business.

Here’s one of several interesting graphs from the report:

policies for mobile devices

Note the levels of those who appear to have no intention of implementing a policy for employees to work from their personal devices.

Here are some key stats from the survey:

  • The survey revealed that 25 percent of organisations do not have a policy in place for employees to work remotely via their own personal mobile devices (such as a smartphone or a tablet device) and don’t think it is a priority at the moment.
  • A further 41 percent don’t currently have a policy in place for employees to work remotely via their
    own personal devices, but have said that it is on their agenda to implement.
  • A massive 96 percent of those surveyed selected security risk as one of the top four most important considerations when implementing a policy for employees to work remotely via their own personal mobile device.
  • A total of 49 percent selected security risk as the top concern overall.
  • After security, compliance is the second most important consideration, with 70 percent of respondents ranking it in their top four concerns and 26 percent ranking it the second most important consideration.
  • In total, 69 percent of those surveyed use smartphones and tablet devices not supplied by the company to work remotely at home or whilst on the move (44 percent smartphones and 25 percent tablet devices).
  • A huge 92 percent of employees in the financial sector use their own laptops to work remotely at home or whilst on the move.
  • In total, 37 percent of respondents allow their children (or other members of their household) to use their work device e.g. laptop, smartphone and tablet device.
  • In total 43 percent of respondents state that security concerns would be the main reason for them not allowing children or other household members using their work devices.

There is a great deal more analysis (and as mentioned, more graphs) in the report. You can read it in its entirety here (pdf).

Clearly security is a concern. And frankly, even though workers using their personal devices for work can greatly increase productivity (Think about it. Their smartphones are within reach nearly all the time.), it is still possible that their devices are not secure, or that they’re connecting to WiFi networks that are not secure. There’s also the possibility that their device can get lost or stolen, or simply left behind at a bar. Ask Apple about that one.

Should businesses be worried about employees using their personal smartphones and/or tablets? Tell us what you think.