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Companies Having Trouble Translating Security to Mobile Devices

As more enterprise work takes place on mobile devices, more companies are feeling insecure about the security of their mobile fleet, according to a new Verizon report.

RSA CONFERENCE 2019 – San Francisco – As more enterprise work takes place on mobile devices, more companies are feeling insecure about the security of their mobile fleet. That's one of the big takeaways from Verizon's "Mobile Security Index 2019," released here this week.

The report is based on responses from 671 enterprise IT professionals from a wide range of business sizes across a broad array of industries. The picture they paint in their responses is one where mobile security is a major concern that's getting worse, not better, as time goes on.

More than two-thirds (68%) say the risks of mobile devices have grown in the past year, with 83% now saying their organizations are at risk from mobile threats. Those risks have changed in the year since the first edition of the "Mobile Security Index."

"In the first iteration, organizations were more nervous about losing access to the device itself" through theft or accidental loss, said Matthew Montgomery, a director with responsibilities for business operations, sales, and marketing at Verizon, in an interview at the RSA Conference. This time, they are worried about " ... having a breach or losing access to the data, because the device became very centric to businesses in the way they work."

Those worries, though, don't necessarily translate into effective security efforts. "There's still this big perception — they think they're secure, that they're doing things to help them with mobile security, but yet they're still telling us that they're sacrificing mobile security to get the job done faster," said Justin Blair, executive director of wireless business products at Verizon.

Montgomery said the sacrifice and inability to put effective security in place is not because the organizations don't understand how to make systems secure. "Most of these organizations have really strong or world-class security in their traditional framework. Their networks, their Windows machines, their firewalls — they take very good care of the cybersecurity," he said.

The breakdown comes in applying those security practices to mobile devices. Part of the problem has to do with the way employees work, Blair said. "It's 10% of the time these devices are showing up on corporate networks, while 90% of the time they're either on a cellular network, on a public Wi-Fi network, or on a home Wi-Fi network," he explained.

And those remote connections contribute to the way organizations think about their employees as threat actors. According to the report, "At 38%, employees topped the list of actors that respondents were most concerned about."

Unfortunately, it's not just accidental employee-driven data loss that worries companies; 46% say personal gain is the leading motivator for employee security breaches, while accidents come in second, at 36%.

How can companies get better? An easy step forward would come from strong policies. The survey results show that less than half of companies (45%) have acceptable use policies (AUPs). Of those that do have such policies, only 21% have policies that could be considered comprehensive, with sections that deal explicitly with mobile devices, external network connections, and acceptable content on enterprise-connected devices.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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