Travel tips for employees and their mobile devices

Long days, warm weather, the lure of travel, if only to a nearby park or beach - many employees, naturally, are thinking of escaping the office for time away.

For the past year, since the passage of home working legislation in the UK, employees who have been on the job at least 26 weeks have had the right to request flexible working hours.

That flexibility could take the form of working at home a day or two every week, or, especially this time of the year, it could simply mean leaving the office early on a Friday afternoon for a quick jaunt to the beach.

So far, few employees have taken advantage of the flexible hours, despite last year’s legislation. A survey by HR firm Timewise found that nearly half of the working population in the UK want to work flexible hours but only 6 per cent of job advertisements mention flexible hours as a job feature. It would seem, therefore, that businesses fail to understand or appreciate just how important flexible working hours are to employees.

But are IT departments ready to send employees off with their BYOD devices given all the business data those devices contain?

These days, suitcases and backpacks are not the only things that need preparing for time on the road. The average mobile worker is now carrying three mobile devices (typically a smartphone, a tablet, and laptop). It's important for IT departments to remember that, when employees board crowded trains, hop from hotel to bus to taxi, or linger on deck chairs or in restaurants, so do their mobile devices, along with whatever business content those devices contain.

To keep those devices and their content safe, here are some security travel tips:

Education

First, educate users about the importance of mobile security and best practices for keeping BYOD devices safe. Remind them that the devices that they are carrying, if lost or stolen, give criminals a foothold in your organisation.

Smartphones and tablets should be protected with PINs or passcodes. When connecting to public Wi-Fi hot spots like those in hotel lobbies and cafés, employees should make sure they are connecting to a legitimate portal, not a laptop or other device posing as one. They should be cautious, too, about downloading apps that might contain malware.

If a device does happen to be lost or stolen, the owner should let their IT department know right away, not two weeks later when they return to work.

Security

Second, the IT organisation should make its own preparations by deploying an enterprise-grade mobile security solution that protects enterprise content on every device, every day, everywhere.

It should enable IT administrators and compliance officers to monitor the distribution of files and to remotely “wipe” business content from any device that goes astray. The solution should also work with whatever mobile devices employees are carrying, and it should make it easy for them to access the content they need for work without the need for struggling with slow, cumbersome VPNs.

“Secure container” technology like built-in AV scanning can protect business content on BYOD devices from mobile malware or other types of interference from personal content and apps.

There is clearly a pent-up demand for flexible working conditions. By making mobile content security a regular part of an enterprise's BYOD environment, IT departments can help employees work securely inside the office or out, bringing a bit of summer freedom to the workday, all year round.

Keith Poyser, GM EMEA, Accellion