NewsMay 26, 2017 @ 7:31 AM

Survey: IT Leaders Concerned About Mobile Workforce Security Challenges

The challenge of using mobile devices for business while keeping endpoints secure remains a top concern among security leaders.

In its “2017 Mobile Security Report,” iPass surveyed 500 chief information officers (CIOs) and senior IT decision-makers from the U.S., U.K., Germany and France. It found that 93 percent of organizations were “somewhat or very concerned” about risks associated with the mobile workforce. Additionally, 47 percent of respondents were “very concerned” about these risks, up from 36 percent last year, suggesting that the unease is mounting.

Geographical Differences

Although the respondents generally agreed on the focus areas of worry, the study revealed that the level of concern varies by geography. U.S. organizations were most likely to express their apprehension about mobile security, with 98 percent reporting that they were “very” or “somewhat concerned.”

European organizations showed less worry, with 89 percent of respondents expressing anxiety about increasing mobile threats. Only 32 percent of U.K. respondents indicated that they were “very concerned” about mobile security threats, compared to the 58 percent of U.S. respondents.

MitM and Other Mobile Workforce Hazards

The survey respondents pointed to location-based threats as a particular area of concern, since many mobile workers use public Wi-Fi to access company data. Forty-two percent said the mobile workforce most often leveraged insecure internet connections from coffee shops, followed by airports and conference centers, respectively.

“Cafes invariably have lax security standards, meaning that anyone using these networks will be potentially vulnerable,” Raghu Konka, vice president of engineering at iPass, said in a statement.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents ranked man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks as the greatest risk associated with using public Wi-Fi hotpots. Other problems included lack of encryption (63 percent), hotspot spoofing (58 percent) and unpatched devices (55 percent).

Banning the use of public Wi-Fi may be good for security, but it can negatively impact the business opportunities and the productivity of the mobile workforce. Organizations must strike a balance to empower their employees with both mobility and security.

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Larry Loeb

Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He wrote for IBM's DeveloperWorks site for seven years and has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange.