Are IT groups really ready for BYOD security challenges?

Privately-owned mobile devices, backed by a corporate BYOD policy, are still fairly rare in business, according to a LinkedIn survey.

A new survey of IT security professionals shows that many businesses are barely starting to exploit mobile technology, and some of them may be a mobile security nightmare waiting to happen.

In a self-evaluation question, 40 per cent of the 2014 sample (compared to 34 per cent in 2013) ranked their readiness for BYOD at 60 per cent or higher. Yet responses to other questions suggest that is wildly optimistic.

+ Also on NetworkWorld:7 Enterprise Mobile Security Best Practices|Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device+

Just over 1,100 IT professionals, members of the Linked-In Information Security Community, were surveyed during the April-June 2014 period, representing a global range of industries, company sizes, and job descriptions. The survey was sponsored by Vectra Networks, a San Jose vendor that specializes in detecting cyber-attacks as they happen. The 22-page report, "BYOD and mobile security," is available free in PDF after a simple registration.

BYOD is still in its enterprise infancy. Only 24 per cent of the sample said that privately-owned devices are widely used in their company and supported by a corporate BYOD policy. Another 31 per cent said that BYOD is under consideration. Privately-owned devices are in "very limited use," according to 26 per cent.

By contrast, 40 per cent of the respondents say company-owned devices are widely used in their organization.

For the most part, they are used for the most basic and familiar of applications. Email/calendar/contacts are by far the most popular: 86 per cent of the sample named this combination. Document access and editing was a distant second, named by 45 per cent of the sample; followed by access to Microsoft Sharepoint or corporate intranets, named by 41 per cent. Access to company-built applications and file sharing were tied for fourth place (each named by 34 per cent of the sample). In fifth place was access to online applications such as Salesforce (26 per cent).

The top BYOD security concerns for this group are:

  • Loss of company or client data (picked by 67 per cent)
  • Unauthorized access to company data or systems (57 per cent)
  • Users downloading app or content with embedded security exploits (47 per cent)
  • Malware infections (45 per cent)
  • And lost or stolen devices (41 per cent)

The sample was asked "What tools are used to manage mobile devices?" Multiple answers were allowed, so at least some respondents may be practicing a "defense in depth" for mobility, with several products in play. A mobile device management (MDM) application is used by 43 per cent. Endpoint security tools (the difference between these two categories wasn't spelled out) are used by 39 per cent; and 38 per cent enforce Network Access Controls (NAC). About one-third (30%) use endpoint malware protections. Almost one in four, 22 per cent, selected "none."

Practices in place to control risk for mobile devices were also explored. The most common practice is password protection (67 per cent said they have this). Others include: remote wiping of data (52 per cent) and mandatory use of encryption (43 per cent). Auditing of mobile devices is used by just one in four of the respondents.

One of the oddest set of answers came in response to the question "What negative impact did mobile security threats have on your organization?" The largest percentage, 30 per cent of respondents, selected "additional IT resources needed to manage mobile security." The answer almost suggests that these respondents see mobile security as a drag or a problem, rather than an enabler or solution. A similar percentage, at 27 per cent, said "don't know." Does that indicate a complete lack of visibility into the mobile threat landscape? Another 23 per cent picked "none."

Other negative impacts, presumably in response to actual breaches, attacks or infections, included: increased helpdesk time to repair damage from exploits (14 per cent); disrupted business activities (12 per cent); cost of cleaning up malware infections (also 12 per cent); and reduced employee productivity (11 per cent).

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."



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