Whether you run a small, medium or large enterprise, chances are good that at least some portion of your business today is conducted on a mobile device. Perhaps your team carries tablets to sales calls. Your executives and board might send email from their smartphones. In countless other ways, your business now relies on mobile devices.
The Gartner Group recently predicted that tablets will be in the hands of one billion users by the end of 2015 and 2.5 billion people will use smartphones within the next three years. Inevitably, a significant part of that usage will be for work purposes. In many ways, that is a benefit for business, which can be conducted from anywhere at anytime. However, it is also a great risk, particularly because so few business leaders seem to have asked hard questions about mobility and security.
What should those questions be? Let’s start with these:
- Which employees are conducting business on mobile devices and with whom
- What kind of data is being exchanged via mobile devices
- What safeguards do we have on this exchange of information
- How do our security standards for mobile devices compare to the systems we have in place for desktop computers
- How do we deal with securing personal, non-managed devices
- What contingency plans do we have in the event of document leakage or device loss?
While mobile devices make it easier for employees, partners and customers to access information, these tools are also more easily lost or stolen and lack many of the security technologies used on PCs. Therefore, as the use of these devices increases, so does the risk of sensitive information leaving your organization. Recent leaks in numerous industries illustrate what such breaches can mean: decreases in business value, the distraction of management teams and harm to corporate reputations.
Three steps forward in better mobile security
One of the most important things you can do to stave off the mobile security threat to your business is to be aware that there is such a threat. But there are other, more proactive steps you can take to make sure that any business conducted via tablets, smartphones and laptops on your behalf reaps profits, not problems. These include:
1. Retain the capability to remotely control documents
The data that lives on laptops, tablets and smartphones is often mission critical and vast. When such a device is stolen, the potential damage to the business that owns that information is staggering. You can’t prevent every theft, but you can give yourself the ability to wipe these tools clean if they are stolen.
2. Track documents, including who prints, copies and shares them
Tracking can be an important capability to have when a disgruntled employee separates from the company and tries to carry information with him, or when information leaks seem to be coming from insiders. However, tracking can also be helpful when it comes to careful collaboration with external partners.
3. Secure personal as well as work devices
Companies increasingly allow employees to BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. But this means the enterprise has no control over the device. Also consider documents shared with third parties using their own mobile devices you obviously have no control over. Tools must be put in place to ensure that any confidential documents stored on such devices are properly secured and can still be controlled, tracked and destroyed if needed.
Without question, mobile devices advance business. Tablets, laptops and smartphones save us time and allow our employees to work effectively on the road. Unfortunately, these technologies also seem to have lowered the general awareness businesses should have about security if they are to retain their intellectual property.
As the mobile revolution expands in the next few years, it will be up to business leaders to secure the mobile devices their employees use to make sure that information moves as it should and is not downloaded, copied, printed or forwarded into the wrong hands.
Adi Ruppin is vice president of business development at WatchDox, a provider of document control, tracking and protection solutions that enable the confidential sharing of important or sensitive documents in an easy and secure way.