Document security in the mobile enterprise

Every major industry deals with documents that must remain highly secure, whether that’s health care records, legal case materials, tax forms or other privileged materials.

Enterprises that handle these records are obligated to preserve their privacy and face consequences and reputational losses when they don’t. But in a rapidly mobilising age populated by a growing millennial workforce, enterprises are facing a more challenging path to document security.

With mobility opening the door to new vulnerabilities, enterprises need to adopt a strategic approach to document security in the mobile age.

The mobile workforce’s approach to documents: Risks and rewards

With millennials increasingly dominating the workforce, their reliance on mobility and multi-device use is becoming the norm for enterprises across industries. Right now, millennials comprise the largest chunk of the U.S. workforce, and this share size will only increase as more Gen Y'ers graduate from college and land jobs. By 2020, millennials are expected to make up roughly half of the workforce. But it’s not only that millennials are increasing in volume; they’re also climbing the enterprise ranks. As older generations retire and vacate leadership positions, they’re passing the baton to millennial workers who are actively reshaping traditional workplace processes.

One enterprise process that millennials are significantly transforming is the approach to document access. According to recent Pew research, 86 per cent of 18-to-29-year-olds use a smartphone, while 50 per cent of that same group owns a tablet. As a truly mobile generation, millennials don’t only have their mobile devices for personal use; they take them to work as well. The millennial push for mobility and BYOD means that workers are increasingly accessing documents from devices outside of the workplace.

Across industries, there are clear benefits to workers having mobile access to documents. In healthcare, for instance, mobile apps can help facilitate better clinical decision-making, and doctors with mobile access to patient EHRs can provide those patients with more expedient and individualised care. Additionally, medical professionals can use mobile solutions to surmount communication barriers that would otherwise exist between doctor and patient. And in the legal sector, litigators can use mobile apps to expedite document discovery, transforming a traditionally cumbersome and time-consuming procedure into a seamless and streamlined process.

However, the merging of mobility and document access poses new threats to document security. When workers access documents on mobile devices outside the enterprise walls, it can open the door to the malicious interception. Mobile-related breaches are especially problematic in industries that deal with highly privileged data. In the government sector, for example, one-quarter of breaches that occurred between 2005 and 2014 happened due to portable device loss, according to Trend Micro research. This problematic trend can lead to significant consequences. In April, for instance, burglars stole laptops and hard drives from Washington’s Office of Child Support Enforcement which contained potential access to five million private records.

Breaches like these aren’t just a problem for government organisations; industries like law, healthcare and finance face similar threats. And as more mobile devices enter organisational networks and gain access to privileged data, mobile-related breaches will only become a bigger issue.

Tips for document security in the mobile age

For enterprises across industries, mobile document access is an inevitability. Therefore, it’s not productive for businesses to actively resist it; instead, they need to look for ways to retain security in a mobile age. To ensure that mobile document access doesn’t create big security vulnerabilities, organisations should implement document viewing solutions and better monitor their mobile networks.

In terms of mobile document security, it’s not enough to protect physical mobile devices – businesses also need to secure the documents to which these devices have access. This is where a document viewing solution comes into play. By harnessing a document viewer that is equipped with tools to make sure mobile documents remain secure, companies can significantly reduce the risk of malicious sharing of these privileged documents. When evaluating potential document viewing resources, companies should seek out solutions offering features that actively guard against unauthorised sharing, such as custom watermarking.

In addition to implementing document viewing tools, enterprises also need centralised procedures for monitoring and regulating mobile devices within a business network. This system should include resources for onboarding and offboarding mobile devices as well as remote wipe capabilities for mobile devices that are stolen or otherwise compromised. Businesses can also take a vital security step by encrypting portable assets and data in transit.

Today’s companies can’t afford to be lax when it comes to overseeing mobile documents. With mobile access mounting across sectors, all industries have to prioritise mobile document security.

By taking a proactive approach to document security, companies can avoid outside intrusions while enjoying the benefits that mobile document access can bring.

Steve Wilson, VP at Accusoft

Image source: Shutterstock/deepadesigns