Mobile workers still struggling with security

A great deal of end-user education still needs to happen

A fair amount of business users remain oblivious or unconcerned about many of the security issues involved with mobile devices, according to a new study published by Cisco and the National Cyber Security Alliance.

While a greater number of business users are carrying laptop computers and mobile handhelds every year, a good number of people either ignore security threats related to the machines or policies meant to protect them from attack or data loss, the report finds.

Cisco and the NCSA cite IDC research which predicts that roughly 70 percent of all workers in the United States will be armed with some sort of mobile device by 2009. Another piece of research cited in the report and published by Korn/Ferry concludes that 81 percent of all business executives worldwide are already using mobiles of some kind.

Based on those figures and their findings, the report authors said that a great deal of end-user education still needs to occur to help people avoid making bad decisions in protecting mobile devices against potential attacks or data loss.

In the study, which was carried out via interviews with 700 business people who use mobile devices in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, India, South Korea, and Singapore, the researchers contend that the situation merits an increased focus on helping organizations to overcome the lack of acknowledgement of potential security problems among users.

The interviews themselves were carried out by independent research firm InsightExpress.

According to the report, some 73 percent of those surveyed said they do not always consider security issues when using their mobile devices, and 28 percent admitted that they hardly ever give thought to adhering to recommended procedures.

When pushed for the reasons why they failed to consider potential moble security risks, most users said they were more focused on getting their work done as quickly as possible.

Logging on to unknown or untrusted sources of wireless Internet access remains one of the most significant issues, the researchers said, with roughly one-third of all respondents admitting that they have done so at times. Users in China were the most grievous offenders, with 54 percent of those users saying they've gone onto unknown wireless networks, followed by users in Germany (46 percent) and South Korea (44 percent).

Many respondents claimed that they couldn't initially tell when they were doing so or only did so when their own networks weren't up and running, while others admitted they simply wanted free access.

As in the world of e-mail, the practice of opening messages or attachments from unverified sources remains a major issue in the mobile sector, according to the report. The mistake is amplified by the knowledge that most of today's mobile malware threats demand such user interaction to get onto devices in the first place.

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Matt Hines

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