Mobile computing users' attitudes pose potential security threats

Businesses need to balance management, security and use of company property outside of working hours

New research from Vodafone UK claims to have exposed potential IT security threats to business in the differing ways that mobile computing users view their work mobiles and laptops when out of the office. 

The survey sampling more than 1000 mobile computing users suggested that personal use of laptops and mobile devices goes unregulated once out of the office.

Vodafone say that the findings provide clear evidence that that business and IT managers need to balance management, security and use of company property outside of working hours with employees’ increasing expectation that personal use of company mobile devices is acceptable in an always on, always contactable world.

Of the survey, nearly half had been issued with a work laptop with internet access that is used regularly outside of work. The same proportion of people regarded their work laptops or mobile devices as their own property once away from the office.

This attitude was potentially exposing firms to security threats. Half (With 49.6%) of employees used their own mobile broadband connection and 29.6% used Wi-Fi with their company mobile device when at home, leaving the possibility of leaving businesses at risk of malware attacks, other security threats, and legal liability.

The problem for firms is that just over two-thirds of all employees considered using a work-supplied laptop outside working hours was a ‘fair exchange’ in the work/life balance equation. Nearly the same number of senior managers surveyed agreed that it was acceptable for employees to use work-supplied laptops for their own purposes outside of work. The managers felt that, as recession continued to bite and traditional forms of reward such as pay-rises and bonuses were harder to deliver, small ‘perks’ become more important in retaining key staff. 

Commented Mike Banwell, Head of Business Services, Vodafone UK, “Whilst it is right that businesses need to keep a close eye on company assets such as netbooks, laptops and other mobile devices to prevent inappropriate, illegal or irresponsible use, we don’t want to get to a situation where attitudes change to such an extent that policies and procedures become so restrictive that employees actively circumvent them, or that the devices become so unfriendly that the benefits employees and businesses are obtaining from mobile working are severely reduced.”

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