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Passcodes Pervasive On BYOD -- But Not Strong

85 percent of enterprise smartphones and tablets require passcode-protection on smartphones and tablets, but only 7 percent employ secure ones

It's a classic balance-of-security-and-convenience story: an overwhelming majority of businesses today force their employees to passcode-protect their mobile devices, but most only with simple and less secure PINs.

The good news is that 85% of BYOD devices force passcode-protection for smartphones and tablets coming into the enterprise. But why not go the distance and force complex passcodes?

"IT found that maybe it's an acceptable balance between high security and good-enough security. A simple PIN for them is good enough security," says Jonathan Dale, director of marketing at Fiberlink, which provided Dark Reading with passcode data from a sampling of 200,000 smartphone and tablet devices the mobile device management firm handles for enterprises. "The data bears out the IT change in behavior prior to 2007, when even BlackBerry passcodes were getting a little tight. Now if we require a complex passcode, it's more dangerous to use [if someone has to make an emergency call], the device becomes a bit less usable, and users don't desire these heavy passcodes."

Some 93% of enterprise mobile devices employ PINs when a passcode is enforced, with 73% of them using PINs with just four- to five character length. Some 27% use PINs of more than five characters, according to Fiberlink's data, which is a sampling of 1,000 of its 5,000 customers.

Just seven percent of those devices adopt complex passcodes made up of alphabet, number, and special character combinations. And 15% of devices don't require a passcode at all.

The healthcare industry is most stringent with its mobile devices, enforcing passcodes on 97% of them, followed by professional services (87%), public sector (85%), consumer/retail (81%), financial services (79%), manufacturing (78%), and education (41%).

Public sector organizations account for the most mobile devices using complex and secure passcodes, with 18%. Financial services (9 percent), healthcare (4 percent), and other industries have few devices with strong passcodes, however. "I was surprised about financial services," Dale says.

Dale says he expects organizations to move toward better locking down the corporate data that mobile users access from their smartphones and tablets. "Mail will require [passwords of] more than four or five characters. But IT doesn't want to restrict texting and Tweeting," he says, so passcodes may not get much stronger.

"There could be a trend starting where organizations put deeper requirements around passcodes and passwords to reach corporate resources, and less on gaining [actual] access to the device" itself, he says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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sanderiam
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sanderiam,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/19/2013 | 12:11:25 PM
re: Passcodes Pervasive On BYOD -- But Not Strong
That moment at sign in feels too personal, especially in a BYOD situation, for many to give it up to "the man" in corporate security. It's too invasive. Most of the times they make that little swipe to sign in though, the numbers say it's more likely to be about angry birds than accounting spreadsheets. But when people are going to deal with company data, they get that more security is needed. So it comes back to making sure that layer of company data is extremely well protected. That means making sure you have a complete picture of who has access to what to ensure you know the risks of allowing BYOD style access to any data. And that means putting extra gates like two factor authentication in place for the stuff you really need to protect.
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