Rise of mobile workers calls for security adaptations

April 6, 2012

One of the most significant ways in which businesses are being transformed by the nearly universal shift toward cloud computing is through the rise of mobile workers. Because it allows a worker to access a business' network from off-site locations, the cloud is allowing organizations to outsource a large number of critical business functions to workers stationed at other branches or even in their own homes.

This is an appealing prospect to many businesses because it offers the possibility of reducing costs while maintaining or even improving efficiency. By employing mobile workers, an organization does not need to reserve nearly as much physical space or hardware for its operations. Additionally, internal communication is preserved through the use of cloud-based services, including email, instant messaging and secure file sharing.

However, while industry experts widely agree on these benefits for businesses using cloud computing, there is also a wide consensus that the shift to the cloud presents myriad security concerns that need to be addressed.

A large part of these concerns are based around the trend of users using their personal mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, for work-related purposes. While this practice allows employees to access business information and perform tasks at any time and from any location, it also drastically increases the likelihood that an organization's sensitive data will end up in the hands of an unauthorized individual. In fact, recent surveys have identified lost or stolen devices as one of the leading causes of data breaches.

To counter this vulnerability, security experts recommend that organizations make a concerted effort to inform their employees of the risks inherent to mobile devices and explain optimal means of protecting them. By installing security software on their devices and using complex, difficult-to-guess passwords, employees can greatly increase their mobile security.

Similar tactics should also be adopted in regard to establishing a mobile network. In a traditional business environment, the network is limited to the office. As more employees work off-site, though, that network expands, creating new endpoints and new security risks.

Aerohive, a cloud network solutions provider, recently released a whitepaper which addresses these issues, offering best practices for companies establishing cloud-based networks. Since it is not practical, and in some cases not even possible, for a company to provide an off-site or mobile IT worker with comprehensive security software and updates, businesses should instead strive to create security protocols that are simple, straightforward and easy to apply, and then work hard to ensure the application of these measures. This will increase the integrity of networks' endpoints while limiting the potential of misapplications.

-McAfee Cloud Security