Protecting Your Data in a Mobile World

If employers adopt a bring-your-own-device approach, they need to establish clear policies and implement IT security controls.

By Anthony Hernandez, Principal, Business Advisory Services, IT Strategy and Risk Management, Grant Thornton LLP

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Mobile devices are taking over the planet. According to a 2013 Cisco report, there will be more mobile devices than the seven billion people who inhabit the earth by year-end. What's more, the report predicts there will be a staggering 10 billion mobile devices by 2017.

Indeed, an entire global generation — millennials — communicates primarily through a combination of mobile devices and social media. In keeping with the times, 71% of companies are considering custom mobile apps, according to Symantec's 2012 State of Mobility Survey. And one in three enterprises is actively rolling out a mobile app or already has done so.

Many forward-thinking food manufacturers are on top of this trend and already are interacting with customers via mobile apps, which include videos, location-aware coupons, promotional announcements and loyalty programs.

Moreover, a growing number of food manufacturers are turning to enterprise-connected mobile devices to provide insight into business operations, boost productivity and achieve new efficiencies. Enterprise mobile apps offer the ability to track real-time inventory, gain visibility into factory-floor operations, and monitor sales and operations performance.

A Motorola survey of mobile technologies found that manufacturers saved a daily average of 42 minutes per employee by using mobile apps.

Enterprise mobile security, however, is a different story. Many companies are paying insufficient attention to this critical business factor. A Ponemon Institute survey showed that 51% of surveyed companies experienced a data breach due to insecure mobile devices. With the explosive increase in corporate mobile device use, there is a commensurate increase in sensitive data residing in employee smartphones, tablets, USB drives and other apparatuses.

In addition to e-mail, voicemail, location information and documents, there may be credentials to access enterprise applications and other confidential information on devices. Yet, many employees aren't accustomed to protecting their devices. Unfortunately, lost or stolen smart phones and tablets are not unusual.

Adding to the problem is the fact that most consumers and enterprises do not take the time to regularly patch or update their smartphones and tablets, increasing their risk exposure.

Cyber attacks have become more frequent and sophisticated, coming from diverse sources such as SMS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, infra-red, USB, web browsers and mobile platforms.

For example, people need to beware of free charging kiosks at airports that enable users to plug a USB cable into their mobile devices. These unknown tools can easily be configured to read or remove data from devices and even upload viruses or malware.

Every manufacturer needs to address the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) to work trend, which can be good for productivity but add complexity to data security. Managing a mix of mobile device platforms — Blackberry, iPhone and Android, among others — is more complicated for IT, and users often inadvertently circumvent security policies. If employers decide to adopt a BYOD approach, they need to establish clear policies and implement IT security controls to protect their data and their network.

As more food manufacturers turn to enterprise mobile technologies to connect with customers, achieve efficiencies and gain visibility into operations, they need to continually assess the security implications of their technology and mitigate risks accordingly. An effective enterprise solution will address a range of device types, integrate seamlessly with manufacturers' existing systems, and — most importantly — keep sensitive data safe and sound.

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