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Comment : Mobile Workers Regularly Breach It Policies...Or Don't Know They Exist

New research from Vodafone UK reveals many UK businesses appear unsure as to how to secure mobile devices effectively – with nearly a quarter of all businesses having experienced security issues as a result of employees using laptops or mobile email devices outside of working hours and in contravention of company security policies.

Managing the new generation of mobile devices, from connected laptops to smart phones, is the new challenge faced by IT departments.

Today's devices not only have the capability to access corporate networks, but can also store large amounts of potentially sensitive data. Vodafone's research highlights the potential risks that mobile workers are inadvertently creating through non-compliance with IT security policies.

Curt Hopkins, Head of Enterprise Mobility Solutions at Vodafone UK commented, "It's clear from the research that although many companies are setting remote and mobile working policies, they often prove to be ineffective because staff just don't follow them. Not only is this due to lack of knowledge or understanding on the part of the user, but also to lack of awareness in the IT department of effective solutions to extend and enforce security policies and practices to the mobile device estate. "

The research, conducted by Opinion Matters in June 2008 from a sample of 1,116 UK workers, shows that while many organisations are reaping the benefits of mobile working with improvements in productivity, flexibility and business continuity, in many ways their efforts could be undermined by failure to enforce IT policies and protect valuable business data outside of the office. The study reveals that a third of workers have never read their employers IT policies, or are otherwise unsure if they even exist, while approximately half of those surveyed were unsure if they are subject to different IT policies for when working inside or outside of the office.

The change in working patterns of a more flexible workforce has uncovered a host of problems for the IT department as many businesses are finding it hard to enforce IT policies and protect valuable business data outside of the office. This problem is only set to grow as businesses balance security risks against the growing need to provide secure network access for remote workers in an ever-widening range of locations, and across many different networks and devices.

Features such as Full Disk Encryption to protect data that resides on laptops and Data Leak Prevention to stop the removal of sensitive data along with policy-defined access control could provide much higher levels of security.

"Today's mobile devices are complex and have the potential to open holes in corporate security policies. Businesses that implement a remote access solution across their network will benefit from reduced risk, improved compliance and productivity as well as improved peace of mind, knowing that their corporate information is secure," concluded Hopkins.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.