Why #GenMobile can ruin security for your organisation
Sabahat Nasim, Channel Sales Manager – Gulf at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
As if IT departments and business heads don’t already have enough headaches, Aruba Networks’ study, titled “Securing #GenMobile: Is Your Business Running the Risk?” revealed that your next batch of employees could increase your exposure to digital threats and corporate data loss on mobile devices.
#GenMobile is the term that’s used to describe a generation of people who have shaped their personal and working lives around mobile devices. Today’s younger employees, the mobile-natives, are changing the way companies operate by behaving in ways that have far-reaching implications for corporate network security.
But this shift is much more than just a case of ‘we’re always connected’. It’s about the availability of new (and often free) web-based tools and apps that rival the functionality and power of anything your company can provide. It’s a complete behavioural and attitudinal change of direction.
You might be a #GenMobile’r yourself — you might have adapted, consciously or not, to dipping in and out of work comms at pretty much any time of the day and paying less and less attention to the old 9-to-5 edict. But to younger generations, this isn’t something new — it’s business as usual. They’ve never known any other way. And crucially, that means they won’t change (hint: you might have to).
This is where Aruba Network’s report helps paint a picture of #GenMobile — who they are, how they behave and how their three most striking working habits could affect your business.
1. Super-productive, super-effective
Let’s start with the positives: the survey found that #GenMobile are productive. Seriously productive. They get stuff done and they do it well, using all the tools they can get their hands on. Their innate familiarity with tech means they are self-empowered to power through their to-do lists. Consumer tech is driving this change: 51% say that mobile technologies enable them to be more productive and engaged at work.
2. Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration
A huge part of this uptick in productivity is a new culture of sharing and collaboration. #GenMobile are really good at this. There’s a chance your company already has some kind of collaboration tool in place or in development, so you don’t need to be reminded how useful sharing and working together can be.
3. Passwords? Don’t even…
Yet this is where the story takes a darker turn. This self-empowered, ‘get things done’ attitude means security concerns take a backseat. A fact illustrated by rising levels of security agnosticism: security ranked a lowly fifth in workplace tech priorities for the #GenMobile workforce.
Furthermore, more than half (56%) of employees will disobey their boss to get something done, and over three-quarters are happy to perform self-service IT. #GenMobile thinks nothing of going rogue when it comes to tech.
Creativity, collaboration and sharing all bring valuable advantages, but there’s clear evidence it breeds risk. Six out of ten of those asked are happy to let others regularly (at least once a month) use their work smartphones, while a fifth don’t have passwords on their mobile devices at all.
Despite all of this, there’s no question firms need to nurture creativity and be sure not to stifle #GenMobile’s openness, innovation and collaboration, while at the same time minimise the risk of data and information loss.
Given #GenMobile’s benefits, accepting some small degree of risk is good – but only if you and your organisation can understand and plan for the security risks these behaviours bring with them.
Great mobile security starts in the air
A good place to start is to put in place a secure, yet adaptable, wireless network within the workplace. Here are a few things to consider:
• Deploy flexible security policies that are capable of analysing – and acting on – the context of how the employee is using the mobile device. For instance, does the person have the authority to access the information? Where is he or she accessing it from, and from what device? Depending on the context, different policies can be applied to make sure that the right balance between flexibility and security can be applied on an individual-by-individual basis.
• Regulate Wi-Fi traffic with intelligent policy firewalls that can keep track of app usage. This ensures that different apps are classified according to its security rating based on the role of the employee within the organization. These apps would be allowed to be used on select mobile devices by select users, only if they satisfy live security monitoring by the policy firewall and cloud-powered content filtering.
• Make sure that all communications over the air are encrypted and sent over secure channels. This requires a smart combination of encryption and VPN-on-demand technologies that prevent information from being snooped on, and – even in the event that the information falls into the wrong hands – is rendered gibberish.
So, there are ways for employers to keep their #GenMobile employees happy and productive, without sacrificing mobile security. By all means, organisations should embrace #GenMobile’s penchant for openness, innovation and collaboration; but only when they can understand and plan for the security risks these behaviours bring along.