Sept. 27, 2012
It’s becoming more and more common for workers to store work-related documents on their smartphones, tablet computers and other devices they bring to and from work each day. While this can be convenient -- employees can access important documents at home or on the road --it also creates greater security risks for businesses.
Employees’ devices may not be secure
Many employees’ devices have operating systems that are vulnerable to hacking attacks or viruses. This is especially true if the employee’s device isn’t running the latest version of the operating system. Phone and tablet users often don’t install the latest upgrades or even think about security risks because they’re using phones, not computers.
Both employees and business owners are generally aware of the risk to computers from viruses, malware and the like; however, they may not realize that their smartphones and tablets are vulnerable to the same attacks. Thus, they may not scan phones or tablets for viruses regularly or stay on top of upgrading the firmware on these devices.
In addition to operating system vulnerabilities, phones and tablets are susceptible to getting viruses from downloaded applications. Employees may be careful about downloading only legitimate applications; however, if a hacker attacks the application itself, users may end up downloading a compromised version of the application or an “upgrade” to a compromised version. If an employee’s device has business files on it, a hacker could steal the files. Worse, he or she could break into the business’ computer system and wreak havoc after retrieving login information from stored files.
Lost and stolen devices
Lost and stolen devices accounted for 50 percent of all security breaches in 2011, according to a Ponemon Institute study. If an employee loses his or her phone or tablet--or worse yet, if someone steals the device--that can lead to all kinds of security problems. For example, suppose an employee stored unencrypted files on his or her phone. If the employee loses the phone, whoever finds it might be able to access all the company’s files with just a few taps of the screen. This can happen very easily if an employee’s phone falls out of his or her pocket while sitting in a waiting room or riding in a taxicab.