November 7, 2016 By Larry Loeb 2 min read

A Smartphone Upgrade Can Be Risky

As the holiday season draws closer, commercial incentives to make a smartphone upgrade grow larger. But business employees may have enterprise data stored on their phones or tablets.

According to a Blancco Technology Group survey, 68 percent of mobile users will purchase a new device during the upcoming season of festivities. Respondents said they were primarily influenced by financial incentives for switching to a new carrier or device manufacturer.

Who Is Responsible?

While 54 percent of respondents believed the original device owner was responsible for erasing data before trading in a device, 21 percent placed that onus on the reseller. Nearly half indicated that data erasure was someone else’s responsibility.

Respondents ranked financial details, Social Security numbers, credit card details, corporate emails and client lists among the most critical types of personal and company data that could be compromised when upgrading or otherwise reselling a device. Still, 72 percent of the survey participants said they had connected to insecure Wi-Fi, and 76 percent used their smartphones to access company networks.

Tweaking BYOD Policies

These findings should influence the way enterprises implement and enforce bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. It seems that any mobile device that is routinely used contains corporate data. Organizations must ensure that this data does not fall into the wrong hands, but they aren’t prepared to do so. In fact, 42 percent of those surveyed work for companies that lack visibility into what corporate data is on their smartphones.

Users can’t possibly be sure their older devices will be safe from data thieves, especially considering 32 percent would readily trade in their old phones to their mobile carriers or network operators. Even more concerning, 23 percent would sell their devices to online shopping sites or to retailers that cannot assure data erasure.

Enterprises must have methods in place to deal with this holiday upgrade binge. Companies should inspect any smartphone or device before it is sold to ensure that no company information can be exfiltrated.

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