3 Easy Ways to Protect Your Mobile Workforce

We live in a mobile world—a world of online dating, “google” trivia contests, ebooks, and YouTube. Most of us can’t remember the last time we left home without a cellphone. And the days we did, we were lost–for the GPS junkies, literally.

This new online world drives not just our personal lives, but also our business pursuits. Expanded opportunities for sales growth, employee satisfaction, and lowered costs abound through the use of mobile devices that can do everything from take a credit card payment over a cell phone to project a sales pitch on any white-walled surface. The possibilities are endless.

The greatest challenge in this new and improved mobile world: security.

According to a recent survey by Accellion and the Information Security Media Group (ISMG), 72% of organizations feel their own mobile security is either “poor” or “needs improvement.” On top of that, in the past year, 80% of organizations have experienced a mobile security incident. I, too, had to scour my bank records—online, of course—for weeks after the Black Friday security breach at Target, which affected over 40 million consumers.

Between the chances for viruses, hackers, and just plain bad choices among mobile employees, taking advantage of the amazing tools available can be difficult for business owners—especially when lawsuits are so easy to come by as well.

But it can be done—safely, effectively, and without losing your figurative shirt. Three simple safeguards can keep your private information protected—no matter where you choose to do business.

1) Private cloud file sharing. While there are several inexpensive and popular consumer options for file sharing, security in these systems is shaky at best. Services like Dropbox were simply not designed to be hack-proof, at least not at an enterprise-grade level.

IBM found this out the hard way in 2012 when the company discovered that confidential documents, including future product development plans, had been distributed openly on the internet. This led the company to ban the use of consumer-grade file sharing services such as Dropbox, Box, iCloud, and a variety of others.

The alternative, enterprise-grade, private file sharing, can allow for safe transit and limited access to company documents, keeping your mobile workforce productive and protected.

2) Improve security scanning and encryption. Effective scanning for malware is a must. Certain types of malware can log keystrokes and steal private login information. According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, 40% of security breaches resulted from malware and 76% of those incidents compromised access credentials—a virtual free pass to any information stored or accessed on the mobile devices themselves.

Such incidents can be avoided through internal scanning and enforcing an application whitelist—a “free and clear” list of apps for business devices.

The encryption of all data, either in transit or at rest, can also give your information that added layer of protection, just in case intruders do somehow gain access. Consider this the wind talker security measure, encoding information so that even if an unwanted party does gain access, the data will make no sense without a key to decode it.

3) Centralize control over user account content and monitoring. A final key measure for protecting information is centralized control. This means that the business owner or your own IT department can set standards for how elaborate employee passwords must be, how frequently they are changed, and accessibility for each employee.

Safeguards such as the ability to wipe a device or selectively delete applications can also ensure that if an employee leaves the company or a device is lost or stolen, your information remains protected.

Many companies have recognized the risk of using mobile options in the workforce, but few are giving up on them. They are simply employing smarter techniques to protect their private information, enlisting the help of stronger protection software programs, and adopting policies that are reinforced by effective monitoring.

Please Note: It may be helpful to install antivirus programs on mobile devices. CNET.com has a list of reputable programs (with reviews) for Android operating systems here. Apple devices do not have antivirus programs available as it is a closed system, you can read a controversial article about that here.