Access and Feeds

Enterprise Mobile: Popular Downloadable Free Apps Threaten Enterprise Security

By Dick Weisinger

Mobile devices are increasingly being used by enterprise and government employees for their work.  Larry Payne, Cisco vice president, said that “in the near future, the number of mobile devices will exceed the world’s population, and by 2017, we expect more than 10 billion connected mobile devices.  With the proliferation of devices, security continues to be a major concern.”

A study by Cisco found that 90 percent of government employees use at least one mobile device for work, either a laptop, smartphone or tablet.  While a significant majority of those users practice good basic security habits like locking their computers when away from their desk, many employees aren’t as careful when it comes to downloading publicly available apps to those devices.

Chris Hazelton, research director for mobile and wireless, 451 Research, said that “access to personal data is what makes mobile applications uniquely useful and relevant to users.  In exchange for free apps, consumers are willing to share personal data with third party developers. Companies cannot afford to do this, and must control access to data on mobile devices – creating a real need for greater transparency and control of the apps that are available to employees from public app stores.”

A survey of the top 500 Android applications (downloadable from stores like Amazon, CNET, GETJAR, and Google® Play) found that 460 of them contained features that could be considered as security or privacy risks.  92 percent of the apps used non-secure communication protocols, 60 percent communicated with blacklisted domains, and 20 percent had the ability to load external applications without the consent or knowledge of the user.

Peter Eckersly, technology projects director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that “this is evidence of negligent levels of insecurity by app companies… Often the security and privacy of users is so far down the priority list that they haven’t even thought about doing it.”


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