Growing pressure on IT organizations to enable enterprise mobility initiatives is introducing new security risks at many companies, often due to the rush to release new mobile applications to meet demand from business customers.
The expertise and resources needed to address security risks are also often lacking at many businesses implementing mobility projects. Meanwhile, budgets for mobile security remain precariously low, even as enterprises appear willing to spend more on mobile application development overall.
A new survey of IT managers at 670 organizations by the Ponemon Institute identified such issues as common among companies that are deploying mobile applications for use by employees and customers.
One of the biggest takeaways from the report is the impact that customer needs and demands have on mobile application security. About 65 percent of the respondents strongly felt that the security of mobile applications was being put at risk because of the pressure on IT to release applications quickly in response to mobility requirements.
“The 'rush to release' phenomenon challenges an organization’s ability to stop the risks of data leakage and malware,” the Ponemon report says. Most organizations say they expect to see an increase in malware-infected mobile applications and devices over the next 12 months as a direct result of this phenomenon.
The survey found that IT organizations at large companies on average spend about $34 million on developing mobile applications for their customers. But because of the rush to get them into the hands of users as quickly as possible, many companies fail to first scan the products for security vulnerabilities. Four out of 10 companies surveyed say they aren't scanning the applications they build for flaws that could result in malware infections, data leaks, and other problems.
Most do not run any security tests on either the mobile apps that are developed internally, outsourced from third parties, or purchased from mobile application stores. And when organizations do test applications for security flaws, they usually inspect less than half of them. Of the applications that were tested, more than 30 percent on average were found to contain security flaws. And though the companies surveyed had an average of 110 mobile applications, the budget allocated for securing them was only about $2 million.
Jim Szafranski, vice president of mobile management at IBM, which sponsored the Ponemon study, said the numbers reveal a disconcerting lack of attention being paid by companies to securing mobile applications.
“To me, the one number that sticks out is the 40 percent of companies that are not scanning their mobile applications for vulnerabilities,” Szafranski says. “If I was a CIO, and I was running a business and someone told me that in the most immature area of our business we are not taking precautions—that would scare me.”
Security is often the first casualty in a market that is moving as fast as the enterprise mobility space is, he said. When skills are short and product update cycles keep happening as fast as they do in the mobile space, IT can have a hard time keeping up, he said.
“Whether it is an application in an mobile app store or an internal app catalog, mobile apps are being updated at such a pace I am not surprised that businesses are struggling to keep pace.”
The Ponemon data is another reminder of the growing risks to enterprise security from the enterprise mobility movement. Over the past few years, a growing number of enterprises have adopted Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies that have resulted in what many say is an incredible array of mobile devices being introduced into the workplace. A vast number of these devices are unmanaged, meaning they connect to enterprise applications and data without any IT control over the access.
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In a survey of 198 companies last November by Tech Pro, nearly 75 percent said they already permit or plan to permit BYOD polices in their companies. Tech Pro found that the trend is more pronounced among smaller companies than in larger ones, while governments were the most likely to prohibit it.
Enterprise mobile applications that sit side by side with consumer applications often create a huge exposure for companies, a HP report on mobile application security found in 2013. HP scanned more than 2,100 mobile applications published by companies on Forbes list of Global 2000 companies and found that 86 percent lacked basic protections against modern attacks, 75 percent do not use proper encryption, and 97 percent could access at least one private information source on a mobile device.
That report too, found the frantic rate of mobile application deployment to be the primary cause for vulnerabilities.
"As a result, mobile applications represent a real security threat, emphasizing the need for a mobile application security strategy that enables businesses to go from 'fast-to-market' to 'ecure-and-fast-to-market,': the report said.