A leading mobile device management expert has warned that staff Christmas parties are leaving companies open to the risk of corporate espionage, data breaches and theft due to a lack of care over the security of smart phones and tablet computers.
Observing UK businesses’ attempts to navigate the increasing use of mobile devices in the workplace, Sts Digital MD David Coleman believes that the security issues presented by the Christmas Work Night Out could cost the British economy millions. Pointing to the results of a recent market research study indicating that thousands of workers will hit the UK’s pubs and restaurants this week carrying gadget capable of accessing sensitive commercial information, the commentator has expressed concerns over the continued lack of awareness among businesses regarding the potential threat to the security of corporate data.
“Businesses are at an evolutionary juncture. We’re living in an age whereby mobile devices are increasingly being used as valuable tools for productivity and performance, however at the same time, ever increasing is the threat of security breaches, loss of data, or IP becoming compromised. It’s baffling to me that businesses would have such effective IT policies within the workplace, only to fail to manage the use of business mobile devices carried by employees outside the workplace,” explained Coleman.
With the cost of a data breach rising for the third consecutive year to an average of £1.9m according to an annual study by the Ponemon Institute, the general widespread lack of clear user policies and mobile device management systems leaves UK businesses facing major risks when mobile devices are removed from the workplace.
Commissioned by Sts Digital, a recent market research study carried out in city centre bars and public houses at peak post-work times, revealed the grave situation compounded during the festive season.
While parts of the study highlighted the increasing consumerisation of IT and the value of mobile technology in UK business operations, with 94% of those questioned having been given a mobile device such as a mobile phone, tablet or laptop to enhance operations and workforce flexibility, the study shows a gross shortcoming throughout UK industry in managing mobile technology.
Of those employees who had been given a mobile device, a massive 98% had brought the device into the bar and when asked about access to corporate data and sensitive information, 98% of respondents were able to access corporate information using the mobile device. An alarming 91% of those questioned could access all corporate data including documents, contracts, emails and sensitive information regardless of location using the mobile device, illustrating the extent of risk to data security presented by the loss or theft of a mobile device.
“The study shows perfectly the extent of the risks to a business’ corporate data which are challenged by a typical Christmas Night Out. Employees all over the UK are heading out straight from the workplace over the festive season to enjoy themselves and celebrate the year and they are taking their company mobile device with them. All it takes is one employee’s smartphone to be lost, and instantly the business is liable for anything from a breach of an NDA, the terms of a contract, or even the IP of a client being compromised,” said Coleman.
Further demonstrating the failure of UK businesses to protect their clients or employees from the very real threat to corporate data security presented by the festive season and beyond, only 52% of those interviewed were unaware of any policies which detailed the regulations regarding the use of business-owned mobile devices outside the workplace, or the procedures which should be adhered to in the event of loss or theft of a mobile device.
“This is really the key finding of the study. Businesses are failing to address the risks of mobile device usage by employees outside the workplace and there needs to be a real shift from the reactive to the proactive – businesses need to wake up to their responsibilities to themselves, their clients and their employees, and create policies which not only harness the power of mobile technology to optimise operations, while maintaining a level of management similar to that which exists in the workplace before situations arise,” advised Coleman.
Strengthening Coleman’s calling for strategic management of mobile devices by businesses as workforce flexibility inevitably expands, further research conducted by YouGov and Research Now between May 2011 and August 2011, revealed that of the UK businesses polled, 57 percent have no policies, procedures or IT systems in place to manage the use of mobile personal devices for business purposes.
“The Christmas Night Out is a tiny event in the calendar, a heightened expression of the reality that exists all year round, and a situation which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later so that businesses can continue to maximise the benefits of mobile device usage by employees, embracing the ever increasing consumerisation of IT, and avoid the corporate data breaches which are all too common across the UK,” Coleman added.
About Sts Digital
Sts Digital is a leading mobile, technology and business consultancy that helps companies engage with new technologies and integrate appropriate solutions into their existing business processes. Sts Digital works with a wide range of industries and sectors to navigate the digital sphere, optimise performance and establish enhanced security and user policies.
Offering businesses a total solution for effective mobility management, Sts Digital supplies End User Adoption programmes, Mobile and Tablet security and user policies, alongside expert consultancy, strategic planning and software solutions to ensure the successful and safe use of mobile and tablet devices throughout an organisation’s framework.
Accredited partner of SAP and Blackberry, Sts Digital operates at the cutting edge of innovative mobile technology business solutions and Enterprise Mobility.