Many are engaging in online activities whilst mobile that they would not consider whilst in the office. These include visiting adult sites, gambling, social networking and dating sites, watching online video and TV and even downloading and installing additional software.
For example, nearly 7 per cent of mobile workers (10% of male mobile workers) admit to visiting adult sites using their company laptop or mobile device whilst out of the office. This contrasts to 3.8 percent accessing these sites from a computer in the office. Nearly one-in-five (19%) download music, 10 per cent visited gambling sites and nearly 15 per cent downloaded software without prior authorisation while way from the office.
Although not unexpected, these results show significant shortcomings in the enforcement of IT policies for mobile workers. IT departments have been successful in controlling user behaviour in the office, but struggle to maintain this control over an increasingly mobile workforce. Risky behaviours by employees working away from the office not only expose corporate networks to potential threats from the viruses and malware commonly found on less respectable sites, but also to unforeseen costs. Downloading software can change settings and cause company equipment to fail or disrupt other systems leading to higher support costs. There may also be legal issues resulting from inappropriate content or unlicensed software resident on company hard drives.
Even apparently ‘innocent’ behaviour such as watching BBC iPlayer or downloading songs from iTunes, can lead to significant costs, as Kurt Hopcins Head of Enterprise Mobility Solutions, Vodafone UK explains; “Mobile workers may be accessing a video or music file over a hotel Wi-Fi or 3G network whilst on a business trip. The cost of these downloads are not anticipated and may not be included in corporate price plans. In the instance of using hotel WiFi they may only be appreciated when the individual comes to check out. Even then the cost is hidden in personal expenses making it very difficult to manage.”
Vodafone UK addresses issues identified in this latest research with Vodafone Secure Remote Access (VSRA) – a comprehensive, managed service that brings a specific mobile perspective to securing information, devices and connectivity and enforcing IT policy for today’s flexible workforce.
VRSA can limit users to pre-authorized networks (including 3G, 2G, Wi-Fi and fixed line broadband access), suppliers and price plans, and deploy policy-defined access control, personal firewalls and remote device management. It gives IT managers the assurance that security policies are enforced, devices are protected, data is secured and cost is closely managed by user and by device wherever they are.
“Connectivity and mobility are key to staying ahead of the competition but all devices need to be appropriately secured and managed before a company can reap the many associated benefits. Employees aren’t always aware of the risks associated with accessing certain content whether it is for legitimate reasons or not. The safest approach is for the IT department to centralise security and management of the network to prevent any potential data leaks or network intrusions,” concluded Hopcins.
The research was conducted by Opinion Matters in June 2008 from a sample of 1,116 UK workers.