Mobile BYOD security is always an issue for IT and security. Going online increasingly means going mobile. "There's an app for that" is the truth these days. Unfortunately, mobile device security brings the same set of concerns that full computer and cloud systems are battling – threats, hacking, and ransomware.
The biggest security threat to mobile devices that is not found in desktops or servers is that very mobility. In mid-2015, 2.1 million Americans reported their mobile phones lost or stolen according to Consumer Reports. That's a drop. Add tablets and the count is higher, but still less than what it has been. CR doesn't try to say why the number of missing devices is down.
Mobile BYOD Security in the Work Environment
The ability to wipe data or lock down a smartphone was considered high end security. Apple led the pack in that kind of security, but even the vaunted iPhone was hacked. It's probably easier than you think. "More than 86% of Apple iPhones in the world are apparently still vulnerable to a security flaw that allows a hacker to completely take over the device with just a text message, according to data from mobile and web analytics firm MixPanel," said a report at Business Insider.
It does not matter if your work environment is BYOD or company-supplied. Once the mobile device is gone, expect it to be hacked. Think a remote wipe of the mobile device is going to protect your information? It won't. A quick google on "recover lost data from smartphone" turned up plenty of companies selling information-recovery software.
YouTube also has plenty of videos teaching people how to recover files from a smartphone. While these tutorials are aimed at helping someone find and restore "lost" photos or text messages, there's not a real difference between a picture of someone's kids at the park and a file with a client's payment information. Data is data.
Some of these ideas are worth adding to your company's mobile BYOD security policies.
- Lock it. Set a strong passcode or password on company-supplied devices. The more numbers used, the better. Get the IT staff to set passwords or codes. A lot of employees, if allowed to do it themselves, will choose something simple or something personal like a birthday for numbers or children's names for passwords. For BYOD either limit access to sensitive information or have IT set strong codes for access to those files.
- Auto erase after failed unlocks. Restoring deleted data is cheaper than covering losses from a hack.
- No public charging stations. Viruses and malware at public charging stations have been around for years. CNBC said the problem is getting worse. “Here is how it works: The cybercriminal needs to hide an HDMI [high-definition multimedia interface] splitter and recorder in the charging station. Most smartphones are now HDMI-enabled so you can share images from the phone onto a TV. Once plugged in, the station uses the built-in HDMI to record everything done on the smartphone without the user's knowledge."
None of these are guaranteed to stop a dedicated hacker when it comes to mobile device security. But they will frustrate someone who stole the phone or tablet and hoped for an easy score. They can also create enough of a delay for you to lock out the device from your system and alert any customers whose information may be compromised.
Enable Stronger Mobile BYOD Security
The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) says mobile hacks are steadily climbing. The report lists things to do to protect mobile devices. CERT's best security ideas are:
- Don't put sensitive information on mobile devices. May not be practical, but this is the best mobile BYOD security policy.
- Limit the type and number of apps allowed on a mobile device. For a BYOD, this could be problematic. If you are in a BYOD environment, have the employee sign an agreement allowing the IT department to lock company information and restrict access to it.
- Step up the basic access to the phone with longer pass codes and more complicated passwords.
- Disable Bluetooth, infrared and Wi-Fi.
Mobile may not be part of your company's business model right now, but it is coming. If you already have it, what are you doing to make things secure? What's in your company's written mobile device policy? How do you enforce it? How do you monitor the devices, especially if you are BYOD?
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