Study Warns of BYOD Security Risks for SMBs

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted April 10, 2012

Tablets, smartphones and mobile app ecosystems are a boon for SMB productivity -- not to mention profitability. But a new study from Mobilisafe, a Seattle-based mobile security startup, warns of the dangers that they present to small businesses.

Mobilisafe's data comes from a private beta program for the firm's security software. And the results are eye opening. "We now have definitive data that SMBs are exposed to vulnerability risk from mobile devices being used for work," said Giri Sreenivas, CEO of Mobilisafe in a company statement.

His firm discovered that a staggering 71 percent of mobile devices have OS and application vulnerabilities. Making matters worse, those vulnerabilities carry a "high severity" rating, increasing the likelihood that sensitive data may end up accessed by unauthorized persons.

Time to Get Serious About Mobile Security

Mobilisafe claims that upgrading mobile devices to the latest firmware would lead to a "4x drop in the percentage of devices with severe vulnerabilities." That's welcome news. Unfortunately, most SMB IT managers aren't up to the task of safeguarding company data in the "bring your own device" (BYOD) era.

Just keeping track of mobile security threats is a challenge for IT staffers, the company finds. Mobilisafe says that every 1.6 days on average, a new high-severity vulnerability is mapped to mobile devices. That's four times faster than in 2011, and a sign that mobile security risks are growing in parallel with brisk tablet and smartphone adoption.

The problem is compounded by a lack standardized security policies and tools that allow small businesses to effectively manage the wide variety of mobile device types on the market today. It's a state of affairs that can severely impact a small business' finances.

Symantec recently polled more than 3,000 SMBs and found that lax mobile security costs SMBs $126,000 each year. That's a good incentive to start exploring ways of creating secure environments for tablets and smartphones.

In his top 5 tips for preventing data loss, Sadik Al-Abdulla, senior manager of security practices at CDW, recently identified mobile security as a big priority for small businesses. He advises SMBs to "develop a policy for secure mobile device use, consider the security protections they have in place, and determine how to manage mobile devices."

He adds that mobile device management (MDM) tools can help keep company data away from the prying eyes -- and keyboards -- of hackers.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of IT-related websites and as the Green IT curator for GigaOM Pro. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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