Mobile workers threaten a data security headache for business owners

13 Mar 2013

Leo O'Leary, head of corporate and public sector at Vodafone Ireland

IT security is viewed by 71pc of business owners in Ireland as the biggest technology challenge they face today. While only 20pc consider supporting bring your own device (BYOD) a security challenge, Vodafone has warned that with a near 40pc smartphone activation rate the potential security risks of the mobile workforce aren’t fully understood.

The IDC research was commissioned by Vodafone to explore Irish businesses’ attitudes to new ways of working and developing trends in mobile technology.  

It found that protecting company data while file sharing was a key concern for businesses across all industry sectors, with a third of organisations stating that providing remote and secure access to company files was the biggest challenge in supporting a 21st-century, flexible workforce.

The consumerisation of IT and the growth of BYOD amongst employees in the workplace are further driving the debate on IT and data security in business.

While only 20pc of respondents consider supporting employee-owned devices a major technical challenge, there remains a risk that the potential security issue of this growing trend is not being fully addressed.

The research also highlighted a more worrying trend for company mobile workers, with 50pc claiming to have no concern about data security on their smartphone or tablet device, demonstrating the immediate need for greater control by businesses of their employees’ use of mobile devices for work purposes.

“We have seen a 37.5pc increase in smartphone users on our network in the past year and our connected tablet base has already doubled over the last few months,” the head of corporate and public sector at Vodafone Ireland Leo O’Leary explained. “This access to multifunctional portable devices presents both opportunities in terms of enabling greater productivity and creativity, but also raises important security challenges.  

“Business intelligence and market information in whatever form, whether as contact details for customers, product pricing, or other commercially sensitive information, is at the heart of competitive advantage and reputation of one business over another.  

“Security of data must always be a top priority and no longer needs to be as significant a challenge. There are now many mobile device management solutions available to businesses to put such structures in place to secure their remote networks and mobile devices.”

Preventing data leakage

Stockbroking firm Goodbody operates in an industry where security and data protection are critical but has not seen this as a challenge to change.

“The deployment of secure mobile/portable devices in Goodbody is key to our business and significantly contributes to productivity and mobility,” said Seán Croston, head of technology at Goodbody.  

“An essential component of technology management is ensuring robust security controls and processes are employed to protect sensitive information and functionality. Goodbody has employed a mobile device solution with Vodafone which embraces and addresses our security considerations and provides robust data leakage prevention and boundary controls. This solution has further enhanced the mobility and functionality with our workforce,” Croston said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years