The Security Risks of Remote Work
According to industry analyst Strategy Analytics: The global mobile workforce is set to increase from 1.52 billion in 2017, accounting for 39.3% of the global workforce, to 1.88 billion in 2023, accounting for 43.3% of the global workforce. Globalization will continue to drive the growth of mobile office workers in all regions. The latest mobile devices and technologies are now able to meet most of the demands of mobile workers of all types. While the more significant growth opportunities ahead will depend on the mobile internet, as it contributes to developments in the wider digital ecosystem. Mobile internet users are the addressable market for e-commerce, Fintech (Financial technology) and a range of digitally delivered shared files, services and content.
At the same time, mobile security threats are on the rise: according to the McAfee Mobile Threat Report Q1 2018, 16 million users were hit with mobile malware in the third quarter of 2017. Q3 2018 had more than 62,000,000 new malware files reported, with over 820,000,000 total malware files listed. The biggest change was the increase in size of the ransom payment. Past versions required US $1,000, now costs are US $2,400 for the decryption key up 140%.
iPass Mobile Security Report 2018 surveyed 500 CIOs and senior IT decision makers from the U.S., U.K., Germany and France, to examine how organizations view today’s mobile security threats and how employees’ use free public Wi-Fi.
The use of free public Wi-Fi continues to pose the biggest mobile security threat for hotspots globally. With all the varying security credentials, how can enterprises ensure the connections that their mobile workers use are secure? At a time when data protection is paramount, enterprises need to strike a balance between keeping their data and systems secure, while not hampering the productivity of their mobile workforce.
The majority (57%) of CIOs suspect their mobile workers have been hacked or caused a mobile security issue in the last 12 months.
Overall, 81% of respondents said they had seen Wi-Fi related security incidents in the last 12 months, with cafés, airports and hotels being cited as the most vulnerable locations. 62% of Wi-Fi related security incidents occurred in cafés and coffee shops. This is perhaps not surprising, as all these locations see a high turnover of visitors each year and the level of security at each hotspot varies. There were also significant geographic differences when it came to Wi-Fi related security issues at airports: more than two thirds (68%) of U.S. respondents said they had seen incidents at airports, in contrast to only 39% in the U.K.
CIOs believe mobile security risks have increased due to the rise of employees using their own devices (BYOD). Banning employee use of free Wi-Fi hotspots is still the preferred security measure for most organizations but their mobile workers are using them all the time.
BYOD: Bring Your Own Danger?
The concept of bring your own device (BYOD) is now commonplace: despite the large number of people working remotely, Gartner says fewer than (23%) have been supplied with a mobile device by their employer. This can leave companies open to security risks, if they do not have control over the security settings or capabilities of devices that are being used. Enterprises are in a Catch-22 situation when it comes BYOD. Many enterprises realize it can improve not only employee productivity, but also wider job satisfaction. However, there is a trade-off with potential security risks. Survey respondents recognize that the risk has been increased by BYOD, with 94% reporting that they think BYOD has increased mobile security risks.
Is Mobile VPN a solution?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can be a way to secure remote connections to data and central systems, providing an alternative to a blanket ban on free Wi-Fi hotspots with an extra layer of security. This solution has to be deployed by the end user each time they wish to connect. VPN usage is increasing: in 2016, just 26% of enterprises were fully confident mobile workers were using a VPN every time they went online, but that figure has jumped to 46% in 2018. That does however leave more than half (54%) of respondents reporting that they still aren’t fully confident that their mobile workers use a VPN every time they go online. This figure leaps in the U.K. and France, where 62% and 59% of respondents, respectively, said they weren’t fully confident that their mobile workers are using a VPN when they go online. There are several barriers preventing mobile workers from connecting to VPNs, including the fact that mobile workers might not want personal data to run over the corporate network and that connecting to VPNs can take extra time. The challenge lies in training employee on the importance of using VPNs every time they go online, and how to connect to one in a quick and efficient manner.
Mobile security challenges remain a huge concern
Based on the earlier statistics, it’s not surprising that enterprises remain concerned about the security risk posed by the growing number of mobile workers. Overall, 92% of organizations said they were very concerned or somewhat concerned their growing mobile workforce presents an increasing number of mobile security challenges. There’s a perfect storm brewing: a rapidly growing mobile workforce, the proliferation of smart devices, the explosion of free public Wi-Fi coupled with ever more sophisticated hackers.
Companies are increasingly aware of the fact that the huge growth in mobile working presents new security issues to worry about. IT teams are no longer fully in control, as connectivity and access to corporate systems now extends beyond the corporate firewall. The huge, global growth in free Wi-Fi hotspots continues to skyrocket, so organizations outright banning employees from using them is a somewhat ineffective. The fact is, mobile workers will always seek out connectivity, regardless of the security risks involved, if it enables them to get their work done. In todays connected and increasingly ‘Wi-Fi’ first world, companies need a modern mobile working strategy that empowers employees, as opposed to trying to stop them in their tracks. In today’s risk environment the public Wi-Fi is the greatest threat and the ability to use it safely is the primary business goal of Remote Workers.