How “Bring Your Own Device” Policies Are Feeding the Rise of Mobile Threats

Driven by the shift to remote and hybrid work models, more and more people are using their personal devices for work purposes. A vast majority of Americans own smartphones, and many use those phones to access internal company documents and databases. But while this may be a convenient habit, it also introduces complex security risks.

Sensitive data is at a greater risk than ever before, with high-profile breaches making headlines. Understanding the threats to workers’ personal IT assets is vital in today’s connected landscape. As the proliferation of devices opens up potential network vulnerabilities, innovative security has to stay one step ahead of evolving digital threats. 

The Shift to BYOD 

Over the last decade, companies have been moving toward “Bring Your Own Device” policies, encouraging employees to use their own devices for work tasks. The onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent shift towards remote working has only increased this trend. But why are employers so quick to embrace this approach?

In addition to lower equipment costs for companies, BYOD means that employees can spend less time training to use new systems and harness the increased productivity of more familiar devices. BYOD also involves less accountability for managing IT assets, which workers can take to and from home at will. But for all of the conveniences and seeming efficiency, adding unmonitored devices that may have varying levels of security measures presents numerous opportunities for data breaches. 

Growing Mobile Use Statistics

Mobile devices are more ubiquitous than ever before for both professional and personal use. According to Statista, more than 91% of the global population (7.26 billion people) owns a mobile phone. The agency also found that 83.4% of people own a smartphone. This is a considerable rise, up from just 49.4% in 2016. 

Now that the overwhelming majority of the world owns smartphones, people commonly use them for tasks that were previously relegated to desktops and laptops. An August 2022 study found that 41.6% of emails were opened on mobile, with desktop browser email accounting for only 16.2% of opened emails. With so much of our information being stored and exchanged on mobile devices, understanding the potential data risks is essential. 

Misconception: Mobile Operating Systems Are Less Vulnerable 

Contrary to what consumers may assume, mobile devices are no more secure than other computers. Recently, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a report highlighting the dangers present in mobile devices. The report cited the increase in threats specific to mobile phones and existing vulnerabilities in all operating systems. This report also points out that typical attacks leverage mobile devices’ portability and their similarities to PCs. The mistaken perception that mobile operating systems are fundamentally more protected is dangerous, allowing hackers to take advantage of users’ naivete to exploit holes in their device security.

The Rise in Attacks Targeting Mobile Platforms and Devices

Mobile devices have many unique features, some of which introduce unique vulnerabilities. As global smartphone users increase, so do cybersecurity dangers. Recent years have seen a number of growing threats to mobile users. Among these, one of the most prevalent threats is mobile app fraud. A prominent breach in 2020 saw hackers use a massive network of devices to drain millions of dollars from online bank accounts, and single emulators can spoof thousands of devices simultaneously. Cross-border fraud is another rising concern, with 60% of businesses in the US and UK reporting incidents of this fraud type in 2021. 

Account takeover (ATO) attacks present yet another serious data security threat. Countless data breaches have leaked user identity information over time, making it easy for malicious actors to steal credentials that open doors to sensitive information. ATO attacks are one of the fastest-rising threats currently facing organizations and consumers alike. 2021 saw a nearly 20% increase in data breaches compared to 2020. Combined with phishing, social engineering scams, and AI-assisted machine-learning hacks, compromised login credentials are creating deep concerns among data security experts. 

The Need for Truly Secure Data

Known threats are not the only danger. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2022 H1 report, approximately 40% of data breach notices issued in the first half of 2022 did not include the root cause of the compromise. The top cause of data breaches so far this year is “unknown” due to a lack of missing root cause identifiers. For the first time since the ITRC began tracking data breach causes, the majority are unknown. Patching all of the potential holes in a security perimeter is especially challenging when not all threats are easily identified. The only truly safe solution is data that protects itself at every stage and, crucially, when accessed through any gateway.

BYOD policies are opening your network to a multitude of devices, many of which you cannot track or control. And while basic security measures like employee training, firewalls, and multi-factor authentication are still essential, they lose their value as soon as a breach has occurred. That’s why it’s vital to partner these measures with self-governing data, which protects against perimeter breaches. 

Traditionally, organizational data has been hidden behind firewalls and is left vulnerable to those already inside the system. However, Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into datasets, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that even if systems are compromised, data remains secure.

At Sertainty, we know that data is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs.

Instead of focusing on your network’s inherent shortcomings, we enable our partners to safely and confidently embrace the potential of a new online-oriented world. Data breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be.

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