Mind the Gap – the “App Gap”

Padraic Murphy
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On: 8 Dec 2016
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Mind the app gap - data security

Growth in mobile working means growth in the demand from employees for desktop-equivalent applications on their mobile devices. If they suffer an “app gap”, the danger is that they will work around it with unauthorised, unsecured solutions. This can mean business data is exposed to a much higher security risk.

No matter the size or nature of your business, your data has a value and its loss has a cost. Enabling mobility while ensuring security is a challenge you need to address sooner rather than later.

You may believe all your business data is sitting securely on a company server somewhere, but if it truly is, you’re in the minority. A survey by Ponemon Institute LLC* revealed that 61% of respondents often or frequently use personal file-sharing or file sync-and-share apps for work; and more than 26% of applications are being used without the IT department’s approval or knowledge.

Why do employees do it? Because of “the app gap”.

Working on the go requires more than the ability to send and receive emails on a smartphone. Yet the vast majority of employees are not provided with the tools they need on their mobile device to be able to access and work with business data and applications when they’re out of the office, in the same way they do when they’re in it. So they work around the problem by using unauthorised and unmanaged apps, for example, Dropbox for file sharing and Evernote for note taking. That’s the first issue.

The other major issue threatening data security is the area of data leakage. This is when data belonging to a business is no longer under the control of that business. When an email attachment is opened on a smartphone or tablet, for example, that document could stay on the device even after the email has been deleted. Documents stored in public file sharing applications also pose a risk. Where is that file “actually stored” when I upload it to OneDrive? Who has access to it?

Security Outside the Perimeter and Your Legal Obligation

Those are two different issues arising from the growth in mobility, but there’s only one worrying outcome: your corporate data is now outside your security perimeter. That means you have no control over its physical location and you may even be breaching legislation. Legislation which, with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in May 2018, is about to get much tougher.

If you’re wondering what to do to give your employees what they want, while maintaining the security and compliance that you need, you’re not alone. A recent survey revealed that 82% of businesses have resorted to limiting data access locations for employees, which goes against the upward trend in employee expectations for mobility at work. Despite these measures, 73% remain unconfident about data security.** Businesses want solutions they can trust not to compromise their security. At the same time, their employees want complete transparency and ease of use. The requirement is, essentially, effective security that works without getting in the way.

BYOD or COPE?

Employees – especially millennials – will not be happy if their employer bans Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Nor will they be satisfied with corporate-owned, personally-enabled (COPE) devices that restrict access to cameras, Google Play Store and similar potentially “leaky” or insecure apps and sites.

The solution is devices that incorporate a secure “sandbox” where corporate emails, intranet access, file sharing and other line-of-business tools can exist and operate, untouchable by the device’s native applications. Viruses, malware and rogue applications are restricted from your business applications. Data can’t leak and won’t stay live on the device when the sandbox is removed. Yet, despite the high level of security this approach provides, it is invisible to the user, doesn’t demand time-consuming additional steps to access the data or tools they need, and doesn’t compromise their out-of-hours use of websites or applications not approved by their employer.

Using Citrix XenMobile, Three gives mobile workers everything on their mobile device that they would expect on their desktop in the office. At the same time, the employer is given the peace of mind of knowing that their data is as secure as if it were still residing solely on the company’s in-house server. So if your employees are among the 61% who risk corporate data by using personal file-sharing methods, this is a highly effective way to provide protection. If you think they are all in the other 39%, perhaps you should double check?

*Ponemon Institute Research Report. Breaking Bad: The Risk of Insecure File Sharing. October 2014 **Dell Data Security Survey, August 2016.