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The Insecurity of the Mobile Workforce
by Alex Hankewicz
March, 2010

    In this constantly evolving and highly competitive global business landscape, a mobile workforce has emerged. The mobile enterprise is an emerging organizational form that has resulted in a paradigm shift on how business is done. This paradigm shift is not unlike the emergence in the previous decade of the internet on the business world. The evolution of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 has occurred over the last ten years. The term used to describe the evolution in the workplace Web 2.0 was first coined in 1999 to describe that users wanted an interactive relationship with the internet rather than just being able to simply retrieve information.

This has culminated in the large scale use of social networking sites, file sharing sites etc. IT Industry Analyst research firm IDC in a Dec 2009 report titled: Retooling IT for a Mobile Workforce: the Importance of Automation predicts by 2011 the mobile global workforce will reach 1 billion workers. This article will take a look at what insecurity the Mobile workforce represents and what does it mean to the small business owner. In a small business access to timely data to process orders, to provide customer service and to track orders from vendors is vital. If any data is lost or corrupted, this can prove so costly that a business may be unable to recover from.

What does the Mobile Workforce Do?
There are very few published academic papers or studies conducted on the Mobile Workforce, In a 2007 report by Nemertes Research (2007) titled: “Building a Successful Virtual Workplace” helped identify some of the primary roles of the mobile worker and what skills these individuals possess and what applications the individuals felt they required from mobile devices to fulfill their job requirements.

Depending on the role you occupy in your organization and the nature of your industry, this will deter-mine the level of mobility in your work. These five primary definitions are reflective of the criteria in which the mobile workforce operates. Through a variety of technology tool’s PC’s ,PDA’s ,smart phones and the availability of 3rd Gen wireless networks will reflect the extent that your role or your organization is sufficiently agile to embark on a mobile workforce strategy.

Security Threats from a Mobile Workforce

As business organizations begin to arm employees with PDA’s ,Laptop computers, smart phones to optimize productivity by being able to access work related files from virtually anywhere. The risk to secure networks has increased dramatically. It is estimated that an ordinary employee laptop valued at approximately $500 can hold or have access to business related content well over 4 million dollars in commercially sensitive data and intellectual property. While certainly not all of an organizations laptops or PDA’s contain sensitive customer data, a real danger lurks with the insecure network access from the employee’s home or remote access. Can your business survive such an unwarranted intrusion to its sensitive information? In a Sept. 2006 surveyOysterman Research titled: “Mobile Workforce Security” cited these sobering statistics from 250 respondents to a survey:
• 37% of organizations have had a data security breach due to loss of mobile devices
• 68% think a data security breach is likely to their network
• More than 50% of the reported breaches were as a direct result of laptops and pda’s being lost or stolen.
As more mobile workers with laptops hit the streets or use smart phones and PDA’s to work from anywhere at any time the corporate security architecture starts to lose the power to protect and prevent incidents. A mobile worker’s lost laptop, the PDA they left in a taxi cab and even their home DSL connection may be outside of ITs control and ability to protect. The security implications are obvious: mobile workers are a weak link in network security.

How to minimize enterprise security threats

In a recent article by ITBMS V.P. Information Technology Leslie Satenstein, titled: “Eclipse in the Mainframe & Business Application Arena” some valuable information was provided on how to mitigate the effects of a security threat to your enterprise. Among them were the following:
• Start simple. Run a virus scan on all devices on your network and see what you discover.
• Conduct a risk assessment by evaluating each of the areas where your company’s network or critical information systems could be compromised and the different controls you have in place to mitigate the risk to your business systems.
• Conduct a vulnerability assessment by seeking out known vulnerabilities or weaknesses in network device operating systems and services that are accessible from the Internet.
• Perhaps suggest an IT security audit by a certified professional
• A modern key based Data Encryption using 3DES the most stringent code.
• Moving away from LAN based storage systems to cloud based storage
• Disable file and print sharing on window systems
• Shut down DSL or Cable access when not in use
• VPN’s in of themselves do not provide adequate degree of security; install intrusion software to prevent unauthorized entry to network.
• Remind employees who regularly use WIFI hot spots to have firewall software installed and operating.

How eClipse provides an additional layer of security

eCLIPse includes a full API library to manage encryption and encryption keys. Not only can the programmer implement encryption in his own applications, he can do so for sensitive database fields. Databases, known to be fully encrypted are known to be prone to security hacking to successfully bypass the built-in database security. Eclipse provides the API so that confidential fields (credit cards, social security numbers, and other confidential data) can be fully protected. This permits simpler database setups, allowing for use of standard database backup and recovery utilities.

eCLIPse addresses problems that are of concern to laptop users, namely
a) the problem of maintaining data confidentiality if the laptop is stolen,
b) maintaining data confidentiality during transmission,
c) Ensuring that the data received on the target system is only visible to members in the same business group who share encryption/decryption keys,
d) other applications (database, etc.) may use eCLIPse and
e), eCLIPse use is very easy and semi-transparent for use by non computer expert “end users”.

A Final Thought

Every day the media reports how unsuspecting companies are hit with massive security breaches to their sensitive customer data and business data the losses are of enormous catastrophic financial loss. The steps in this article will only provide an additional level of protection as no system is 100% full proof against the onslaught of determined and knowledgeable hackers. The strategies outlined here will provide additional protection but one must always remain vigilant by staying informed. At ITBMS we have experienced industry professionals which can guide you through the steps necessary to evaluate your organizations security needs. Click on our website and speak to one of our friendly, courteous staff to inquire on this topic or any other questions you may have.

Copyright 2010 - © - itBMS Inc.

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