Flexible working and the importance of data security

Nicola Mortimer
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On: 22 Jul 2015
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Flexible working and the importance of data security

In my previous blogs I’ve discussed the advantages that can be gained from flexible working practices, enabled through culture change and technology. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) the world’s mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion, representing 37.2% of the total workforce by the end of 2015. Flexible working is here to stay but despite its merits, making company data accessible anywhere, any time to support productivity, also raises questions regarding security.

In fact, concerns around data protection and data compliance have led to government funding for Ireland’s office of the Data Protection Commissioner to be doubled in 2015. Today’s mobile devices are powerful computers and are all entry points into your business’ network. Keeping data safe and secure over these networks is fundamental to complying with data laws as well as protecting your employees, your customers and your business. Knowing who is using the device and what information is stored on the device has become a real issue.

But with flexible work locations, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies and use of a broader range of devices and access points, it becomes harder to monitor the networks over which your employees are accessing this potentially sensitive data. With cloud also likely to be part of the technology supporting flexible working, ensuring that its supply and provision is adequately secure is vital too. Physical security risks such as easier theft of devices and snooping in public places are other concerns.

There are three levels to consider when managing security across flexible and mobile working infrastructures:

The application – ensuring that mobile applications used by staff, whether off the shelf or custom developed, are intrinsically secure.

The data – ensuring that the process of moving data from A to B, for example, from device to corporate network is secure.

The device – ensuring that all smartphones, tablets and other hardware, whether user or business-owned, is adequately protected.

Education will play a large part in preparing workers for their own role in protecting data and devices, but corporate technology needs to be engineered in such a way that the data that’s on the device or is accessible through it, is fully protected without hindering productivity. A Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution is one way of ensuring employees’ own devices are under control and not breaching network security. This is done by segmenting and containing personal and business use on mobiles, offering secure email integration, custom browsers and secure app catalogues, as well as remote data wiping, app disablement and device locking.

Application sandboxing is another important measure to ensure that information never physically resides on smartphones and tablets. Securing data on an app-by-app basis means that information cannot be accessed or stolen by malware or shared with third parties.

Ultimately, successful flexible working practices are built on three key foundations: availability which ensures there are no barriers to productivity; integrity which means data is always up to date and accurate, and confidentiality which is about making sure that flexible working doesn’t compromise security.