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October 30, 2012

Survey Finds Few Businesses Aware of Mobile Device Security Risks

By Colleen Lynch, TMCnet Contributor

AT&T (News - Alert) recently commissioned a survey with the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to find out if there is any disconnect between mobile device usage and mobile security preparedness.

The survey’s results found that 90 percent of small businesses admit to allowing their employees to access work via e-mail on mobile devices, which is not so surprising; what is somewhat shocking is that 41 percent admitted to allowing access to business files via mobile devices as well. 

Image courtesty of Shutterstock.

This reveals a significant blind spot for businesses when it comes to cybersecurity and vulnerability to cyber threats.

Further, the survey reported 83 percent of small businesses allow their employees to use personal devices for work, which covers any number of actions including work emails, data entry and file downloads.

The awareness in respect to this issue is also markedly low, with only 65 percent of companies reporting concern for the safety of information and data accessed over wireless devices.

In comparison, 91 percent reported concern for computer and online data security.

Computers are clearly considered more closely associated with cyber attacks than mobile devices--fewer than one third (29 percent) of participants have installed anti-virus software on smartphones.

“Small businesses need to better understand their risk profile,” warned Nair Memon, professor of computer science and engineering and founding director of The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Security and Privacy (CRISSP) at NYU-Poly.

The survey reported 82 percent of small businesses saying they have taken steps to secure company laptops, while only 32 percent have taken measures to protect smartphones (and 39 percent for tablets).

Memon advocates for “treating every device that touches your network, from laptops to smartphones, as vulnerabilities and ensuring that security is built into the equation at every level.”

According to the report, the current number of small businesses taking steps to improve cybersecurity is low, but will they heed this warning and make plans for the future? Survey says: unlikely.

“There is a troubling disconnect between business owners who want to keep data safe and the necessary steps to protect it,” said Ed Amoroso, chief security officer at AT&T.

Fewer than half (42 percent) of the businesses surveyed have any plans to increase security down the line.

"With more employees using mobile devices, especially personal devices, business data are increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats,” warned Amoroso. “Protecting critical information can be easy and affordable, and small businesses need to recognize the reality of today's environment – this is a step they can't afford to ignore."

Edited by Rich Steeves
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