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Mobile workforce makes companies jittery

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With their workforce increasingly going mobile and corporate data going outside the safety net of firewalls, companies face the threat of data leakage, along with other security risks. According to experts, since employees prefer of their choice, with an open operating system, companies are more vulnerable to security threats and these have only added to the concerns of security managers.

Employees who want to work on the go prefer devices like , and laptops.

"Most employees want a choice of devices beyond that stipulated by the company. Organisations are beginning to like the trend, since their workers can become more productive. However, this has increased the threat of data security, as most of these devices have enough storage capacity and can fall into the hands of unintended persons," said , director (sales), India.

According to data from research firm IDC, the number of mobile workers accessing enterprise systems worldwide would cross the one-billion mark this year and touch 1.2 billion by 2013. Details from technology companies also show a major chunk of the employees prefer their personal mobile devices for official work.

According to a recent survey covering 60 organisations in India by security solutions provider McAfee, 48 per cent of the respondents said they used smartphones for almost all work-related computing or emails. It also said mobile device usage was changing from laptops to mobile phones and tablets.

Another report by Frost & Sullivan showed there was a blurring of boundaries between business and personal usage. This is why many information technology managers struggle to enforce company policies, while employees demand more consumer-like devices and applications. "As companies allow employees to use their personal devices to access corporate information, most of these have insisted employees use smartphones of a common operating system. The major risk associated with using various smartphones is that open operating systems are vulnerable to external threats and different operating systems used by employees increase the concern of employers," said , vice-president and managing director (India product operations), Symantec.

Cyber security experts say organised crime on mobile devices is on the rise. Malware written for mobile devices is growing at 43 per cent every year. And, the threat of losing the device has come forth as a major issue for companies. "In India, the threat of losing devices is a major worry for information technology engineers. The download rates of applications on smartphones are also increasing," added Ghosh.

Security services providers have also seen a rise in malware sophistication, along with a rise in the overall volume of daily malware threats. Threats like Android-based 'Geinimi' mobile Trojan and Android app 'Zsone' mobile Trojan had recently surfaced. Security companies also saw ZeuS-based botnets spread through the short messaging service for Blackberry devices.

"Mobile devices, especially the ones that use the open operating systems are more vulnerable to threats. The majority of users prefer Android devices. This is why more than 50 applications were removed from Android Marketplace in early March," said McAfee's Deshpande.

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