In terms of security features, mobile phones lag behind PCs, making them vulnerable to cyber security risks. In an earlier post, I wrote about how small businesses can deal with mobile device theft or loss and malware. Those are important first steps, but let me ask a question: What have you done to protect the smartphones and tablets you and your employees use?
If your answer is “Nothing,” you’re not alone. Only 32 percent of small businesses have secured their mobile devices from cyber attacks, according to research by AT&T and the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Security and Privacy at Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
That number may be low because business owners have too much on their plates and believe that creating a security system is difficult. It really isn’t! Here’s how you can help prevent a breach of critical data through employee smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices—even if they bring their own devices to work:
1. Separate work and personal use:
By using services like AT&T ToggleSM, you can create distinct work and personal modes on your employees’ personal devices. This lets employees use a password to enter the protected work environment and exit out before they can access their personal information again. Besides keeping your business data more secure, it also helps protect business and personal mobile environments from viruses and malware. The latest version of Toggle even allows you to have two telephone numbers on one device—a work number that the business can pay for and a personal number funded by an employee.
2. Use the device’s security features:
Most smartphones and tablets have a password feature that locks the device. Be sure your employees lock theirs and choose a complex PIN or password. Check to see if the device offers extra security features, such as file encryption and the ability to find and wipe the device remotely. I would also urge you to avoid using unknown WiFi networks and public WiFi hotspots since attackers can create phony hotspots to attack mobile devices. If you must access a public hotspot, look for ones with a substantial number of users.
3. Watch over your devices:
Consider a mobile device management (MDM) system to gain better control over the smartphones and tablets you issue to your employees — as well as the ones they own and use to access company emails and data. MDM enables businesses to do everything from managing carriers and applications to blocking access to certain websites. Like Toggle, many MDM solutions also let businesses create business workspaces on employee-owned devices. Even employees at the smallest companies are interacting on different operating systems, platforms, device brands, and carriers. MDM helps you implement consistent company-wide mobile business usage policies as well.
4. Keep apps updated:
As with operating systems or software versions, keeping up with the latest app updates can help protect devices from new security threats. Notifications about app updates might seem relentless—and unnecessary if the app is working just fine—but don’t ignore these. Installing the newest version of an app helps protect you from security risks that have emerged since the last version was installed. Educate your staff and about this, and require them to use the latest version of apps on the devices they use for work.