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Majority of firms fear mobile workers have been hacked

More than half of organisations fear that their mobile workers have been hacked and most are concerned that a growing mobile workforce means increased cyber security risk, a survey reveals

Some 57% of organisations suspect that their mobile workers have been compromised or caused a mobile security issue in the past year, a survey shows.

Overall, 81% of respondents said they had seen Wi-Fi-related security incidents in the past 12 months, according to the latest mobile security report by global mobile connectivity firm iPass that is based on a poll of 500 CIOs and IT decision makers in the UK, US, Germany and France.

Coffee shops were ranked as the top venue where such incidents had occurred, followed by airports (60%) and hotels (52%), with other locations on the list including railway stations (30%), exhibition centres (26%), and on passenger aircraft (20%).

The survey of 500 organisations from the UK, US, Germany and France shows many organisations have now implemented bring your own device (BYOD) policies to empower their mobile workers. However, despite all the positives this can bring, 94% of enterprises said BYOD has increased mobile security risks.

Overall, 92% of organisations said they were concerned their growing mobile workforce presents an increasing number of mobile security challenges.

“There is no escaping the fact that mobile security threats are rising, and 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 Wi-Fi hotspot they are using is fully secure,” said Raghu Konka, vice-president of engineering at iPass.

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

The research shows the majority of organisations are still addressing mobile security challenges by banning employee usage of free Wi-Fi hotspots. More than a quarter (27%) take the hardline approach of banning their use at all times, while 40% ban their use sometimes. A further 16% plan to introduce a ban on public Wi-Fi hotspots in the future.

Many organisations use virtual private networks (VPN) to provide secure remote access to their data and systems, and the research shows that employee usage of VPNs is slowly increasing.

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In 2016, the iPass mobile security report revealed that 26% of organisations were fully confident their mobile workers were using a VPN every time they went online, but that figure is up to 46% in 2018. However, that still leaves more than half (54%) of respondents reporting they still are not fully confident their mobile workers use a VPN every time they go online.

The report also shows that UK enterprises are likely to be the most wary of employees working from coffee shops as (81%) have seen Wi-Fi-related security incidents occur in such a location, while 68% of US firms reported a mobile security incident at airports.  

In the UK, almost half (42%) of enterprises have no plans to ban the use of free Wi-Fi hotspots. This is significantly higher compared with the US (9%), Germany (10%), and France (12%).

UK organisations (38%) are the least confident that their mobile workers are using a VPN every time they go online, compared with Germany (53%), the US (49%) and France (41%).

“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, so there is no point in putting roadblocks in their way without also providing a solution,” said Konka.

“Organisations must focus on taking positive action to resolve the security problems mobile workers are bringing to the table. With a secure connection through a VPN, enterprises can have confidence that Wi-Fi hotspot usage will have a positive rather than negative impact on their business.

“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,” he said.

The report notes that mobile working is increasingly becoming the norm for many enterprises, with Strategy Analytics predicting that there will be 1.75 billion mobile workers by 2020.

At the same time, mobile security threats are on the rise, with the McAfee mobile threat report Q1 2018 stating that 16 million users were hit with mobile malware in the third quarter of 2017.

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