A new survey of IT security professionals shows that many businesses are barely starting to exploit mobile technology, and some of them may be a mobile security nightmare waiting to happen.
In a self-evaluation question, 40% of the 2014 sample (compared to 34% in 2013) ranked their readiness for BYOD at 60% or higher. Yet responses to other questions suggest that is wildly optimistic.
Just over 1,100 IT professionals, members of the Linked-In Information Security Community, were surveyed during the April-June 2014 period, representing a global range of industries, company sizes, and job descriptions. The survey was sponsored by Vectra Networks, a San Jose vendor that specializes in detecting cyber-attacks as they happen. The 22-page report, "BYOD and mobile security," is available free in PDF after a simple registration.
BYOD is still in its enterprise infancy. Only 24% of the sample said that privately-owned devices are widely used in their company and supported by a corporate BYOD policy. Another 31% said that BYOD is under consideration. Privately-owned devices are in "very limited use,” according to 26%.
By contrast, 40% of the respondents say company-owned devices are widely used in their organization.
For the most part, they are used for the most basic and familiar of applications. Email/calendar/contacts are by far the most popular: 86% of the sample named this combination. Document access and editing was a distant second, named by 45% of the sample; followed by access to Microsoft Sharepoint or corporate intranets, named by 41%. Access to company-built applications and file sharing were tied for fourth place (each named by 34% of the sample). In fifth place was access to online applications such as Salesforce (26%).
The top BYOD security concerns for this group are:
+ loss of company or client data (picked by 67%)
+ unauthorized access to company data or systems (57%)
+ users downloading app or content with embedded security exploits (47%)
+ malware infections (45%)
+ and lost or stolen devices (41%)
The sample was asked "What tools are used to manage mobile devices?" Multiple answers were allowed, so at least some respondents may be practicing a "defense in depth" for mobility, with several products in play. A mobile device management (MDM) application is used by 43%. Endpoint security tools (the difference between these two categories wasn't spelled out) are used by 39%; and 38% enforce Network Access Controls (NAC). About one-third (30%) use endpoint malware protections. Almost one in four, 22%, selected "none."
Practices in place to control risk for mobile devices were also explored. The most common practice is password protection (67% said they have this). Others include: remote wiping of data (52%) and mandatory use of encryption (43%). Auditing of mobile devices is used by just one in four of the respondents.
One of the oddest set of answers came in response to the question "What negative impact did mobile security threats have on your organization?" The largest percentage, 30% of respondents, selected “additional IT resources needed to manage mobile security.” The answer almost suggests that these respondents see mobile security as a drag or a problem, rather than an enabler or solution. A similar percentage, at 27%, said "don't know.” Does that indicate a complete lack of visibility into the mobile threat landscape? Another 23% picked "none."
Other negative impacts, presumably in response to actual breaches, attacks or infections, included: increased helpdesk time to repair damage from exploits (14%); disrupted business activities (12%); cost of cleaning up malware infections (also 12%); and reduced employee productivity (11%).
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for “Network World.”