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Industry Trends

Smartphones and the New Cybersecurity Threat They Pose

With the uptick in workforce mobility and access to corporate networks via smartphones comes increased exposure enterprise-wide to cybersecurity threats, including those that originate within the supply chain.
* By Carol Miller *

Remember when your mobile phone just made phone calls?

Today, smartphones/mobile devices are owned by 77% of U.S. adults, according to Pew Research. With them, voice phone calls are made far less than other communication forms, such as texting, sending and receiving emails and in-app messaging. According to Medium, Americans send SMS (short message service) texts twice as often as voice calling, and OpenMarket said more than 6 billion texts are sent each day.

Before you attribute all that usage solely to Millennials (and 92% of them do own a smartphone), the same Pew Research report also noted that adoption rates have jumped among adults 65 and older (42%) and in households earning less than $30,000 per year (64%).

It’s not news that employees are bringing their personal devices to work. An iPass study on mobile professionals found that 83% of employees use their smartphones to access cloud-based apps for work. For the most part, companies (perhaps acknowledging the difficulty of separating employees from their smartphones) have accepted such usage.

Some businesses choose to provide their mobile workforce with enterprise-owned, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) devices, managed and owned by the company—although employees may or may not be permitted to use them for non-work-related activities. However, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) usage for both work and personal activities remains common—including throughout supply chains.

Yet another study, this one from Sapho, a supplier of employee experience platforms, found that using a personal device at work saves the typical worker 81 minutes per week in productivity, and 78% of employees say BYOD policies deliver better work-life balance. With the same report finding that BYOD saves companies $1,300 per year in device and software costs, it’s easy for enterprises to see the potential upside.

Until they consider the potential downside: cybersecurity threats.

With the uptick in workforce mobility and access to corporate networks via smartphones comes increased exposure enterprise-wide to cybersecurity threats, including those that originate within the supply chain. In January, U.S. national security experts cautioned against utilizing devices from Chinese manufacturers, Huawei and ZTE Corp., citing concerns that data accessed with these products (such as the location of the user) would be available to foreign government intelligence. However, most cybersecurity experts say that’s a lesser concern to businesses and supply chains.”

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There is no silver bullet to building a workforce that can thrive in this new digital environment. It takes leadership, collaboration, innovative talent sourcing, continuous training and improvement. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on this important topic from the technologies driving changing skill sets to industry-academia collaboration to how to hire, retain and develop the digital supply chain workforce.

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