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Work/Play Fusion: a ‘Welcome Mat’ for Cyber Attacks?

Created: 12 Nov 2013 • Updated: 12 Nov 2013
Philip Routley's picture
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Flexibility. Agility. Continuity. Every small business aspires to them. Every small business believes in them. And must-have mobile devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones are right in the frontline, making firms lighter on their feet and employees more responsive, proactive and productive – the very model of modern. 

No wonder we’re always reading about the blurring lines between work and personal life. In reality, though, the boundary hasn’t just blurred – in many cases, it’s vanished altogether. Around half of us already use our personal mobile devices and PCs for work as well as play*, with the burgeoning ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) culture tolerated and even actively encouraged by businesses eager for the resulting cost savings and for the wider benefits flowing from a more flexible, more accessible, ‘constantly connected’ workforce.

LEFT TO THEIR OWN DEVICES

So if our lives are increasingly becoming a less formal, free-wheeling continuum where work and play converge, does the use of personal devices for work and work devices for personal use pose any downsides? As ever, while numbers tell a big part of the story, it’s all too easy for ‘statistics fatigue’ to take the edge off an important message. So I’ll limit myself to three to start with:

  • Nearly 50% of tablet and smartphone owners don’t take basic security precautions such as setting up passwords, installing security software and backing up files.
  • 30% of parents let their children play, download and shop on a work device.
  • 24% of adults save both work and personal files/documents to the same file-sharing service or account.

In terms of keeping business secrets safe and company networks infection-free, the work/play fusion can be a recipe for disaster. You leave your unprotected smartphone on public transport or in a cafe – and valuable company data can all too quickly follow it into unscrupulous, criminal hands. Your son or daughter ‘borrows’ your tablet password and clicks on a banner advert leading to a website polluted with data-stealing malware – and sensitive corporate information is no longer as confidential as it needs to be. The catalogue of potential perils is a long one…  

The key take-away message is simply this: where work-issued mobile devices and personal devices are concerned, it’s frighteningly easy for your employees to relax, drop their guard and leave the door ajar for cyber-threats to leak in and for business-critical intellectual property to leak out.

As a small business, you obviously need to keep that door slammed firmly shut.

The ugly truth is, this is a world where a staggering 63% of mobile device users have fallen victim to cyber-crime, where 27% of adults have lost a mobile device or had one stolen, and where consumer-focused cyber-crime – from malware attacks to hacking, fraud and all kinds of ingenious and inventive scams – claims 12 victims every second.

FOUR STEPS TO SANITY

When it comes to personal devices, it’s frankly amazing how often the necessary passwords and protection just aren’t in place. I’m not always sure whether it’s down to lack of awareness, lack of time, excessive complacency or a combination of all three. But in terms of the implications, the bare facts speak for themselves. Over a third of businesses, for example, have no policy in place to cover employee use of personal devices for work purposes. So it’s inevitable – especially with the distinction between business and consumer threats becoming increasingly redundant – that having employees ‘constantly connected’ all too often translates into your business being ‘constantly at risk’.  

The good news is that, simply by reading this blog, you’re on track to tackling this potential weak link in your business’s security cordon. Awareness of a problem really is the starting-point for effective action to deal with it. And taking such action isn’t particularly difficult:

  1. Ensure every device used by your employees for work purposes, whatever and wherever that device may be, is robustly password protected.
  2. Devise and implement a clear, comprehensible, well publicised BYOD usage policy that all employees have to sign up to and adhere to.
  3. Hold employees liable in the event of corporate data being lost or stolen because a personal device isn’t adequately protected or a usage policy has been transgressed – and spare no effort to make your staff aware of their responsibilities and liabilities.
  4. Invest in an affordable, flexible security solution that can safeguard all endpoints – work-issue and personal – easily and effectively. For example, Norton Mobile Security is a market-leading anti-malware, anti-theft solution specifically designed to protect smartphones and tablets as well as iPhones and iPads; crucially, it includes ‘lock and wipe’ facilities that can be activated remotely if a device is lost or stolen. Symantec Endpoint Protection Small Business Edition 2013, meanwhile, harnesses powerful security technologies to provide simple, fast, effective protection against viruses and other malware. For a free trial or demo of these industry-leading solutions, click here and here

Four simple steps – but individually and collectively they really will result in sharper, sturdier security for your business and ensure your employees don’t inadvertently put out a welcome mat for cyber attacks and data loss.

* All statistics are taken from the 2013 Norton Report, which was based on data provided by over 13,000 adults in 24 countries worldwide.