The mobile workforce – how secure is your business now?

Most organisations have embraced mobility as strategy to fully enable their mobile workforces. In essence, this has meant that we have striven to provide for the remote worker access to all the tools that we have in the Headquarters.

In fact, with the trend to office refurbishments we have usually removed any permanent desktop seating that any mobile staff once possessed, as we really want them to maximize their customer time.

As we push to digitize our operations and provide direct access for your mobile workforce, what are the additional risks that you have to manage?

Apps for your mobile workforce

Sounds like a good idea, but I know that this tends to be not the highest priority most any organisation. Rightly, customer applications will tend to get this nod and your mobile workforce can feel that their needs are not getting met.

In any vacuum, it is only natural that what emerges are ‘home grown’ and some renegade IT apps. Such applications are never taken through any of the rigor of testing, nor would any penetration test be typically part of the deployment.

That’s how a small mobile app can become a major risk for your organisation.

Bypassing normal security measures

Too often, I’ve heard of Shadow IT systems that have been implemented without the right degree of professional scrutiny. Often these are systems that are used by the remote mobile team.

For most cases the intention is not directly to bypass normal security, but it just happens. Often this manifests as some really simple things such as Administrator passwords that are default or don’t expire.

These are measures that also occur in IT, but there are control mechanisms that through audit and risk management that these gaps are uncovered.

Good not Great

There are many enterprises that have adopted Airwatch, Good or one of the Mobile Device Management approaches. In essence these approaches address the security requirement and bring this to a mobile phone or tablet.

Some of these provide a good encrypted platform but really not a great customer experience. Yes, it is secured and when staff leave, an Administrator can wipe the entire device or just a part of this. In essence, such solutions provide security for the mobile workforce but are somewhat clumsy.

Lack of integration of Security

What I mean by this is that these options add an additional layer of security above and beyond what is required at the device level. While this makes sense as it is always possible that one’s partner also knows the device password, what is not taken into account is some of the biometric security.

For instance, my iPhone has finger scanning and that’s the first line of defence. But then I have to enter an additional password to access my corporate email.

I’m just not sure why this can’t be integrated?

Who’s looking over your shoulder

I once worked at an organisation that insisted on any mobile device having privacy screen filters. My first reaction was that this appeared to be perhaps a tad over engineered.

However having inadvertently seen other fellow passengers emails etc, I realise that security of mobile workforces really takes an extra level of paranoia.

We forget that mobile workforces end up working in the most random locations, such as airport lounges, coffee shops and sometimes where a good signal is available.

How secure is your mobile staff?

I’ve been a CIO of an organisation that all laptops and USB devices were encrypted. Given the sensitivity of that country to privacy laws, there was a requirement that any loss of a single USB, would require a newspaper advertisement to apologise for a incident.

We all realise that losing a USB, is really easy and this is multiplied with the size of the workforce. With encryption we were able to avoid this embarrassing scenario.

Thankfully these stringent laws don’t apply in Australia. But what remains is the question around how secure is the work that your mobile staff perform?

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