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As of last year, 72 percent of people in the UK owned a smartphone. The rapid growth and popularity of mobile technology hasn’t restricted itself to personal usage. In fact, it ushered in an era where employees are rejecting standard issue devices at work and are looking to use their own.
For many small businesses, Bring Your Own Device (What is BYOD?) policies were heaven sent. They improved productivity and lowered technology-related costs for the company, which are key components in helping any business, especially smaller ones, survive. However, the popularity of any new technology comes with consequences, especially in the computing world. The more people use a particular technology, the greater the incentive for criminals to exploit its weaknesses.
How bad is it?
Pretty bad. According to McAfee, mobile malware increased by 167 percent between 2013 and 2014. That number is expected to grow even higher. The problem is that most people don’t think of their phones as computers, despite the fact they’re using them to do many of the same things. As a result, the majority of mobile devices are left without security features, unprotected from the growing list of threats.
For small businesses, this poses a serious risk to all devices on its network. Malware threats are getting worse due to the growing variety of mobile endpoints. Even organisations where these devices are mostly running the same operating systems still have large amounts of variance. There are different models of phones and tablets, and even if someone has the same operating system it doesn’t mean they’re using the latest update or patch. Older platforms are much more vulnerable, making them the primary access point of many cyber attacks, which can then compromise other devices on the network.
Where are most of the threats directed?
Over 90 percent of mobile malware is directed at Android devices. That’s simply because Android owns the majority to the mobile market, and attackers are going to create attacks that will have the greatest chances of success. Just think of how many computer viruses target Windows machines, simply because the overwhelming majority of the world’s computers use Microsoft operating systems. However, that doesn’t mean other platforms are off the hook.
The ever growing popularity of Apple has led cybercriminals to create spyware aimed at stealing text messages, contacts, pictures and other personal information. This malware can also switch on the iPhone’s microphone and record everything going on around it. All of this information is then sent to remote servers. That’s pretty concerning if you consider that anyone could listen in on your business meetings, and steal confidential information shared between work associates.
How do I protect my business?
It would be nice if criminals would leave smaller businesses alone, but thieves aren’t known for their compassion. Unlike larger corporation with big budgets they can devote to IT security, smaller companies often find very little room in their budgets because so many of their resources are going towards core business functions. It’s this mentality that needs to change. IT security, which includes BYOD security, isn’t just a supporting role. It’s a major function of the business. With that in mind, there are a few simple changes companies can make to help them get started on reducing their chances of a breach.
Implementing secure, password protected WiFi networks, installing mobile security apps and using mobile device management software can all help improve your organisation’s BYOD security. That being said, one of the biggest threats to security is the negligence of employees. Poor browsing habits and downloading malicious apps are far too common. One of the most effective ways to fight this is by keeping IT professionals and employees informed on common threats and defensive measures. Have IT remain up to date with the latest mobile trends, and offer trainings for employees where the can voice their opinions and be shown clearly how they should handle their devices at home and at work.
By Jared Jaureguy