Thinking about mobile security keeps me up at night. It probably keeps you up too.


On a recent evening, I was browsing the findings of a study by McAfee and Ponemon Institute titled “The Lost Smartphone Problem,” which provided data on how many employee devices are lost and recovered annually. My life is exciting.

Approximately, 4.3% of all smartphones issued to or used by employees are lost or stolen every year.

This problem of mobile security—especially in small and medium businesses (SMB)—is too great to turn a blind eye, particularly as more and more devices enter the workplace and get filled up with customer and confidential data.

In case you don’t feel like reading the entire study, here are a few key takeaways:

1. Approximately, 4.3% of all smartphones issued to or used by employees are lost or stolen every year. Four percent! If they were laptops, you would have a method to

find and recover them, right?

2. Fifty-seven percent of lost smartphones were not protected by enabling mobile security features, meaning all data on those phones—emails, contacts, files and

more—is open and available for possible exploitation.

3. Out of the 142,706 devices lost or missing in the study's benchmark sample, on average, only 9,298 (or seven percent) were recovered. Replace the word “device” with “puppy” and this would be on every news network in the country. Are mobile devices just not as lovable as a puppy? 

MORE: The 7 Things Your Competition Is Doing with BYOD

With that in mind, here are the five things you need to know about mobile security so you can sleep at night:

1. Require device passcode locks.

If you do one thing, do this. With a passcode, you are preventing accidental data access (children, nosy people) as well as potential malicious access to information. On iOS, a passcode will encrypt your phone, making it nearly impossible to access. On Android, you should further ensure that storage is encrypted on the device. In the upcoming release of Android 5, also known as Lollipop, this will also be enabled by default.


2. Ask users to opt-in to basic enterprise policies, and be prepared to revoke access controls in the event of changes.

Users that are not able to bring their devices into basic compliance must be denied (or given extremely limited) access.

3. Specify minimum supported versions of platforms.

Consider not supporting or not allowing versions that don’t meet your requirements. If you bought an original iPad 1, the original model, you are likely to be impacted by this, as that model cannot be upgraded past iOS version 5. As mobile devices age, often support for operating system-level updates is discontinued. This means that security vulnerabilities and old versions of applications can continue to be used. You could block or not allow use of these devices or just end support for them if you support a bring your own device (BYOD) environment.


4. Enforce a "no jailbreaking/no rooting" rule.

Disconnect infringing devices from your network and sources of enterprise content and data. I’ve had my personal iPhone in and out of jail a dozen times in the last few years, so I’m guilty here. It’s a process where you install applications from untreated sources, and in the process, you can unintentionally download malware or monitoring software than can compromise more than just your device, depending on the data you have access to on it. Enforce this by policy first and by technology second. There is nothing wrong with hacking your devices (in fact, it’s fun), just don’t do it with your primary device, and be careful what you do with that device after the fact.

5. Require access to enterprise applications and resources with single sign-on and multi-factor authentication.

Expect that mobile devices will install applications and access websites and content that you can’t control--and that is OK. The question then becomes, "How do you manage access to resources and data that you DO care about?" You can restrict access to things like email, customer data, files and internal applications to only devices that log in with organizational credentials, often through single sign-on. I recommend that you go one step further and purchase or use a multi-factor authentication tool as well so that people are accessing your services with both a password (something they know) and a second factor like an app, token or text message (something they have).

Dan O'Leary is a principal solutions architect at Box. He works closely with customers to make cloud content management what it should be: simple and secure. Follow him on Twitter @danielolearyInterested in finding out more about how to enable mobile security for your organization? Learn more here.



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