Security experts discuss the threats putting mobile devices at risk and how businesses can better defend against them.

Mobile Security

Mobile Security

Mobile Security- Most organizations support a bring-your-own device (BYOD) protocol in which employees use their personal mobile devices in lieu of corporate-owned ones. But it’s a mixed bag: Enterprise-owned devices offer more control over security; however, the business incurs the expense and full liability for them. BYOD puts the burden of buying devices on employees, but it could present a greater risk to the company.

“A bit of a trade-off has to happen, as they’re managing an aspect of something that is personally owned by the employee, and they’re using it for all kinds of things besides work,” says Sean Ryan, a Forrester analyst serving security and risk professionals.

On nights and weekends, for example, employees are more likely to let their guards down and connect to public Wi-Fi or neglect security updates. Sure, some people are diligent about these things, while some “just don’t care,” Ryan adds.

This attitude can put users at greater risk for phishing, which is a common attack vector for mobile devices, says Terrance Robinson, head of enterprise security solutions at Verizon. Employees are also at risk for data leakage and man-in-the-middle attacks, especially when they hop on public Wi-Fi networks or download apps without first checking requested permissions. Mobile apps are another hot attack vector for smartphones, used in nearly 80% of attacks.

A major challenge in strengthening mobile device security is changing users’ perception of it. Brian Egenrieder, chief risk officer at SyncDog, says he sees “negativity toward it, as a whole.”

“I think there’s just an overwhelming trust, where that trust probably hasn’t been deserved just yet, in how your data is protected and how your device is protected,” he explains.

Most security professionals have to walk a fine line between securing devices and providing a seamless user experience. “There is this uneasy relationship between trying to make things user-friendly and not add a lot of friction,” Ryan says. Mobile security policies should be stringent enough to protect the devices but not cumbersome to employees.

Here, these three security experts share their advice for security managers seeking to improve the security of their employees’ mobile devices. Have any tips you don’t see here? Feel free to share them in the Comments section, below.

Be Wary of Data Leakage 
Data leakage can occur in multiple ways, and most people are guilty of it: You download an app, get it up and running, skim through the end user licensing agreement (EULA), and don't realize you're enabling the app to have access to your contacts, camera, microphone, and/or a 'whole host' of other capabilities and information, Verizon's Robinson says. 
'Think about what you're actually enabling as it relates to applications,' he continues. 'Does a horoscope application really need access to your contacts?'
The other side of data leakage occurs around shadow IT. Employees often download PDF viewers, collaboration tools, and other productivity software without realizing they've agreed to their data being stored elsewhere, even offshore. 'Are you OK with authorizing a third party to have access to that data?' Robinson adds. Employees should assume all their data is being stored elsewhere; if they do, they may act in a different way than if their data were kept private.   
He also cautions against using free applications, pointing to social media apps' data harvesting as an example of how these companies monetize. With free apps, there's a greater probability of accessing malicious content you didn't mean to access. 'Things are a little tighter when you're actually paying for an application,' Robinson says of security practices. 

(Image: Igor Rotari -- stock.adobe.com)

Be Wary of Data Leakage

Data leakage can occur in multiple ways, and most people are guilty of it: You download an app, get it up and running, skim through the end user licensing agreement (EULA), and don’t realize you’re enabling the app to have access to your contacts, camera, microphone, and/or a “whole host” of other capabilities and information, Verizon’s Robinson says.

“Think about what you’re actually enabling as it relates to applications,” he continues. “Does a horoscope application really need access to your contacts?”

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