Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the mobile-first movement. It's the undeniable wave of the future and I am right there in the front lines. But I tell my clients that the mobile side of the equation has to be done right.
You see, technology can often be a double-edged sword. While it can make our lives vastly more convenient, efficient and even enjoyable, it can also have a darker side, exposing us to new risks and concerns that catch us unprepared, uninformed and vulnerable. The trick, of course, is to find the delicate balance between the two, enjoying the newfound conveniences while defending ourselves against the inevitable risk. No recent technology embodies these disparate sides of innovation like the rising dominance of mobile phones in our society.
The Hyper-Connected Worker
Everywhere we turn, people are checking their portfolios, social media pages or texting a friend from these pocket-sized powerhouses. In fact, their dominance is so pervasive, it's affecting the way we live our lives. As of January 2017, it's estimated over 75% percent of the entire American population has a smartphone while over 50% owns a tablet. Even more staggering, those figures represent a two-fold and five-fold increase in just the last five years, respectively. The darker side of the statistics, however, is just as daunting. As of 2014, there was a 75 percent year-over-year increase in malware attacks while over 25 percent of all mobile devices received a threat of some sort at least once a month.
As intimidating as these statistics might be, however, there are some simple steps to ensure your mobile device is as secure as possible in these risky, precarious times, especially in enterprise applications. While Bring Your Own Device procedures are hugely popular in organizations, they come with even more significant costs to the company and user if the mobile device becomes infected.
Stay One Step Ahead with OS Updates
Given the processing power and popularity of mobile devices, they are now subjected to the same security loopholes and hazards as their laptop and desktop cousins. Just as a Windows update is crucial to providing the most current and thorough security platform to close all known entry points to intrusion, an updated OS on a mobile device is equally as important.
Whether it's Android or iOS, changing the settings to automatically download and install carrier and manufacturer updates is an essential first step in establishing a secure mobile device. While users might grimace every time a notification arises to warn of a pending update, the best advice is to let it run its course so the update isn't forgotten. Although Android devices are significantly more susceptible to malware than their iOS counterparts at the time being, iOS devices are becoming increasingly prone to infection of all sorts with each passing year.
Wield a Strong Shield - Install Anti-Malware
Once again, due to their ever-increasing similarities to computers, it is imperative for mobile devices to have active, current anti-malware software installed at all times. The very same manufacturers that make such software for computers also make it for mobile devices so finding a reputable provider is not a concern. And just like the operating system, making sure the anti-malware software is able to automatically update itself is crucial to allowing it to best protect the device. With newer, stronger, more evasive malware variants appearing almost on a daily basis, giving the software the ability to regularly update itself and its database of potential threats gives it immediate, real-time efficacy against the most virulent, sudden forms of malware in the digital landscape. Also, although it might be a slight drain on the battery, making sure the software actively monitors the OS in real time, including any downloaded or updated files, allows it to work at maximum effectiveness.
Be Smart About Downloading Files and Applications
Given the size of the digital landscape and its many and varied channels, the possibility of downloading an infected file seems almost limitless. Between email attachments, SMS multimedia and the numerous app sources, it's very easy to download malware from a seemingly trustworthy source. Unfortunately, even actual trustworthy sources can make a mobile device susceptible to infection. Although Apple's App Store is quite sound and stable relative to malware, the same cannot be said for Google's Play Store. In fact, the Play Store has become a favorite outlet for adware, spyware and moderately disruptive forms of malware. Just because an application is downloaded directly from the OS provider doesn't mean it is safe and secure.
And while it's nearly impossible to tell beforehand which files should be avoided, a fair amount of better judgment goes a long way in preventing a corrupted device. Also, as a matter of practice, make sure all downloaded files, even those from the OS provider, are scanned through updated anti-malware software.
The Price Is Too High Not to Take Precautions
Although no device is ever completely secure, integrating these procedures as standard practice can significantly reduce exposure to malware of all sorts. In BYOD environments, the need to take proper precautions is even greater. Unfortunately, just one infected device can spread malware throughout an organization, infecting all connected systems and jeopardizing proprietary, sensitive data.
For enterprise-class technologies, finding a balance between productivity and security can be challenging but is by no means impossible. As difficult as it might appear given the volume and stature of malware within the digital world, the efficiency and functionality that is derived from a mobile-friendly experience is too beneficial to commerce and industry to sacrifice for impenetrable security. That said, simple measures can be very effective in combating malware at both the individual and enterprise levels if sufficient diligence and common sense are used.