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57% of enterprises suspect their mobile workers have been hacked

By Ashton Young
Wed 28 Mar 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Bring your own device (BYOD). It’s undoubtedly one of the hot trends in recent years and undoubtedly an infinite source of headaches for security staff.

iPass today published its Mobile Security Report 2018 that made some shocking revelations – 57 percent of organisations suspect their mobile workers have been hacked or caused a mobile security issue in the last 12 months.

The study was carried out by independent market research company Vanson Bourne and was compiled from the responses of 500 organisations from the US, UK, Germany and France.

All up, more than 80 percent of respondents said they had witness WiFi-related security incidents over the last 12 months, with cafes and coffee shops (62 percent) ranked as the venues where such incidents happened the most. This was closely followed by airports on 60 percent, hotels on 52 percent, train stations on 30 percent, exhibition centres on 26 percent, and in-flight with 20 percent.

The study sought to determine how companies are dealing with the trade-off between security and the ever-increasing need to enable a mobile workforce.

While many organisations have implemented BYOD policies to empower their mobile workforce, a staggering 94 percent said this has increased mobile security risks.

“There is no escaping the fact that mobile security threats are rising. So while it is great that mobile workers are increasingly able to work from locations such as cafes, hotels and airports, there is no guarantee the WiFi hotspot they are using is fully secure,” says iPass vice president of engineering Raghu Konka.

“Given the amount of high-profile security breaches in recent years, it’s not surprising this issue is on the radar of CIOs. The conundrum remains: how can they keep their mobile workers secure while providing them with the flexibility to get connected anywhere using their device of choice?”

The research revealed the bulk of organisations are attempting to take care of the mobile security risks by banning usage of free WiFi hotspots. More than a quarter (27 percent) take the hardline approach of banning their use at all times, 40 percent ban their use sometimes, while a further 16 percent plan to introduce a ban on public Wi-Fi hotspots in the future.

Many organisations use virtual private networks (VPNs) to provide secure remote access to their data and systems, with employee usage gradually increasing.

In 2016 the iPass Mobile Security Report showed that just 26 percent of all organisations were fully confident their mobile workers were using a VPN every time they went online. That number has shot up to 46 percent in 2018. While this is undoubtedly good news, there still remains the ‘unconfident’ 54 percent.

Highlights from the report, categorised by geographic region, include:

  • CIOs from Germany (71 percent) are the most suspicious that their mobile workers have been hacked or caused a security issue.
  • UK enterprises are likely to be the most wary of employees working from cafes/coffee shops, as (81 percent) have seen Wi-Fi related security incidents occur in such a location. Meanwhile, alarm bells could ring for enterprises from the US when their employees come online in airports, as 68 percent have seen an incident occur there.
  • In the UK, almost half (42 percent) of enterprises have no plans to ban the use of free Wi-Fi hotspots. This is significantly higher compared to the US (9 percent), Germany (10 percent), and France (12 percent).
  • UK organisations (38 percent) were least confident that their mobile workers are using a VPN every time they go online. The figure is higher in Germany (53 percent), US (49 percent) and France (41 percent).

“While putting a blanket ban on accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots could initially appear to stop the security problem at the source, the fact of the matter is that mobile workers will stop at nothing to get themselves online. There’s no point in putting roadblocks in their way without also providing a solution,” says Konka.

“Organisations must focus on taking positive action to resolve the security problems mobile workers are bringing to the table. The key for organisations is to educate mobile workers about today’s security threats, and to provide them with the tools to remain productive and secure.”

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