Mobile Workers Logging In From WiFi Hotspots Can Compromise Your Corporate Security

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mobile worker privacyDo your employees surf the Web from their mobile devices using unsecure wireless networks? Do you allow them to connect to your company’s network from WiFi hotspots?

If the answer to those questions is yes, you and your employees could be contributing to the epidemic of cybercrime plaguing businesses worldwide.

According to a new study by EY (formerly Ernst & Young), cybercrime is the biggest threat to a company’s survival. Nearly a third of the companies surveyed say they experienced an increase in security threats over the past year. Yet the majority say they still aren’t prepared to deal with such threats.

BYOD Increases Productivity and Security Threats

One of the biggest cyber threats facing companies of all sizes comes from the bring-your-own-device trend that’s sweeping the workplace. Employees love to use their mobile devices to get their work done away from the office. And for the most part, employers encourage BYOD because it boosts productivity.

But many small and medium size companies have not implemented adequate security measures to deal with the threats created by personal mobile devices in the workplace.

Case in point: An October 2013 WorldatWork survey of teleworkers about what technologies are offered through their employers found that only one in five companies uses a corporate VPN to allow employees secure access to company resources such as email, files and applications. That means for four out of every five workers, the responsibility for their company’s data security rests with them. Unfortunately, survey after survey has shown that mobile workers using WiFi hotspots can’t be trusted with that responsibility.

One recent survey by Opinion Matters for GFI Software revealed that commuters routinely connect to WiFi hotspots during their daily commute, putting their company data at risk:

  • Over 95% of commuters used public WiFi once a week for work-related tasks such as email and accessing company servers.
  • 34% accessed public WiFi at least 20 times per week during commutes.
  • Over 60% will use free WiFi anywhere they can find it.
  • Almost 20% of mobile devices have no security enabled.

It’s clear that workers don’t handle cyber threats to their mobile devices with the same degree of care as they do on their desktops. A new survey by PRIVATE WiFi and the Identity Theft Resource Center found more than three out of four respondents believe that using a free WiFi connection can lead to identity theft. Yet they don’t use a personal VPN even though they should.

The result is that employees using their mobile devices at WiFi hotspots without privacy or security software are exposing themselves and the companies they work for to a wide variety of cyber attacks.

Who’s Minding The Store When It Comes to BYOD?

A 2013 survey of IT professionals by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd paints a frightening picture of the mobile security landscape inside companies in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. More than two out of three respondents said their companies allow personal mobile devices to connect corporate networks. And they cited BYOD as the biggest challenge.

  • 63% do not manage corporate information on personal devices.
  • 53% report there is sensitive customer information on mobile devices.
  • 79% report mobile security incidents in the past year.
  • 52% of large companies say the cost of mobile security incidents last year exceeded $500,000.
  • 45% of businesses with less than 1000 employees reported mobile security incident costs exceeding $100,000.

Personal mobile devices used to connect to corporate networks from WiFi hotspots have created a perfect storm for cybercrime. It’s no wonder that data breaches reached an all-time high in 2012.

Companies and their employees need to rise to the BYOD challenge and secure their mobile devices. The cost of complacency is already far too high.

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