Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

AVG (AU/NZ) says SMBs can no longer rely on the King Canute approach to iPhone and Android security.

As a small business owner or employee, you and your fellow staff members are probably keen to get your hands on the latest smartphones, tablet PCs and portable laptop computers to help you with your daily routine in and out of the office.

Indeed, you probably already have one. The results of a Telstra online survey recently revealed that smartphone ownership has now reached 46 per cent of the mobile phone-owning population in Australia, and will reach 60 per cent by the end of 2011. Almost half of those surveyed (47 per cent) admitted to accessing the Internet from their smartphones during work hours, 13 per cent during business meetings.

Thus the King Canute approach to holding back the flood tide of mobile devices into your business is no longer possible. It's time to recognise the security threats posed by these devices and put in place the technology, procedures and policies to deal with them.

Does lots of power pose possible threats?

Such is the sophistication of today's mobile devices that they mirror their desktop computer equivalents in almost every sense. Smartphones today are packed with an immense amount of storage and computing power compared to even five years ago.

The famous quote, "With great power comes great responsibility", is true in this case too. Your employees' mobile devices are now as much a part of your IT resources as the server or database that you keep your client records on. This in itself means that the apps and files on employees' devices now start to form a solid element of business risk.

A recent survey carried out by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of AVG Technologies found that 55 percent of consumers are aware that they may be putting their employers' confidential business information at risk when using their smartphone for both business and personal use. The survey also found that 52 per cent of those who are aware of the risk say that it has happened. However, only 40 per cent are concerned about this!

Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist at AVG (AU/NZ), says, "The problem here is that not only can people easily lose or mislay these devices, but there is a lot of malicious web-based content out there specifically designed to attack mobile computing users. So all mobile devices need to be password protected and have security software on them."

This is not plug-and-play computing

While mobile devices can significantly boost employee productivity when used conscientiously, small business owners need to realise that this is not plug-and-play computing. They need to consider whether to allow employees to use mobile devices for both business and personal use. If they are going to be used for both purposes, employers should find out who is using what kind of equipment and what "apps" they are using and enforce company security policies to protect the business.

Borrett says, "We recommend business owners put together a policy document spelling out security requirements and permissible usage. To help, we have developed the AVG Online Security Audit which asks how employees use the company's and their own equipment - from computers and laptops to smartphones and USB sticks - and what policies are in place for the use of business and private hardware, plus access to social networking and other Internet usage."

AVG (AU/NZ) then emails the business a personalised audit report created from the information provided which identifies where the problems lie along with recommended actions.

The AVG Small Business Security Guide provides some simple but effective steps small business owners can take to secure their business. The Guide is an 11-page action template covering the establishment of policies and processes to secure workplace practices and deliver governance over technology use. Plus AVG's Business Resource Centre has a library of guides and tools that can help you protect your business from identity theft, data breaches, online banking break-ins and other computer crimes.

The vulnerability of mobile devices used in business is a very real threat. Laptops and tablets can be hacked over shared Wi-Fi networks in public places and smartphones can be subject to 'rooting' or 'jailbreaking', where the unit's security settings are disabled by a cyber-criminal seeking a host to embed malware.

AVG provides security software to protect both small businesses and individuals, including free AVG Mobilation software to protect Android-based smartphones and tablets. AVG Internet Security Business Edition protects laptops and notebooks on the move, especially when using Wi-Fi networks, plus the workstations and servers back in your office.

For the series of informative security tips, how-to's and fact sheets see www.avg.com.au/resources/security-tips/. For video tips from AVG (AU/NZ), see www.youtube.com/user/avgaunz.

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Keywords

AVG, Internet security, cybercrime, iPhone, Android,

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