Using Mobile Technology at Work with Safety
by Robert McNicholas on June, 07 2017
Mobile technology is an accepted part of the IT world, both in business and for personal use. Most of us have a tablet or a smartphone, and it’s not uncommon to use our personal devices to have a quick look at our work email or do some other job-related task. The question is, just how safe is mobile computing?
Why Security for Mobile Devices is Different
Security concerns for mobile devices are a different ballgame, especially when you compare them against desktop computers. For the moment, malware (viruses, spyware, and other malicious programs) is primarily aimed at laptops and desktop PCs running the ubiquitous Windows operating system, and defending computers against malware is one of the main concerns of IT security.
Mobile devices are much less prone to malware attacks, although they do happen. One reason for this is that the popular Android operating system uses a technology known as sandboxing to restrict the files that individual apps can access, effectively limiting a virus’ scope. However, this doesn’t mean that smartphones and tablets are home free; they can still be hacked, loaded with useless apps, have their information hijacked, or be rendered completely unusable by some nefarious third party. But that’s not the biggest problem in mobile security.
The biggest problem in mobile security is also its biggest asset: its mobility. Smartphones and tablets are easy to lose and easy to steal, particularly when compared with a desktop system. The greatest danger to mobile security is often unwary users.
How to Keep Mobile Devices Secure at Work
How can you keep your mobile devices secure, especially if you’re using them for work? If you’re the boss, you can institute a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. The beauty of having your own policy is that you can implement safeguards that your employees might not have, like remote device management, strong passwords, and mandatory firewalls and antivirus programs. (You can also beef up your network security to protect against mobile users unwittingly importing malware into your system, but that’s another topic altogether.)
If you’re not the boss, what should you know before you bring your personal mobile device to work?
- Understand Mobile Device Management. This technology allows your company to authorize and deauthorize your phone, often remotely. They may also be able to wipe (delete data from) your phone if it’s reported lost or stolen. The problem? It’s not just company data that gets wiped—it’s your pictures, music, and personal stuff too.
- Make Sure Your System Is Fully Updated. Much like your PC, your tablet or phone needs to download regular updates to keep its operating system secure. If you don’t have your device set to do this automatically, make sure it is. Updates are a good thing from a security standpoint; they plug holes that hackers could exploit.
- Consider Security Software. Yes, it’s true that most viruses don’t bother Android and Apple systems, but be extra safe. Norton, AVG, TrendMicro, and other companies offer security apps for tablets and smartphones, often bundled with protection for your PC as well.
- Use Common Sense. Be smart about how many apps you download, especially if they run in the background. These can drain your battery faster than a marathon phone conversation. Use a lock screen and a strong password (a password that’s hard to guess and contains a mixture of lowercase letters, capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols) to deter casual thievery. Don’t store confidential data on your phone, and make sure you use an encrypted service if you have to send confidential data using your phone. And finally, try not to lose your phone!
With mobile computing just starting to take over Internet traffic, the security threats are likely to continue to evolve. For the moment, you’re more likely to have trouble with a stolen identity or a scam text message than you are with a traditional malware-based attack on your mobile device. Using these cautions, a common-sense approach can help you use your tablet at work without raising a security problem.