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Alarming Number of Fed Smartphones Have Zero Password Protection
Posted: 15-Jan-2013 [Source: Telework Exchange]

[More than half of US Federal employees are using their personal smartphones for job-related tasks, and one third of those are without password protection, according to this report.]

Alexandria, VA -- Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the tangible value of telework and mobility, today announced the results of a new study, “The 2013 Digital Dilemma Report: Mobility, Security, Productivity – Can We Have It All?,” which showcases increased security risks with mobile device usage within Federal government as adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices becomes more widespread. Sponsored by EMC, VMware, Cisco, and Carahsoft, the report reveals that more than half of smartphone users in the Federal government use their personal smartphone for job-related tasks. Out of this group, one in three workers do not have password protection. While mobile devices create a great opportunity for productivity gains, agencies must address current behaviors to ensure government data is not in danger.

The Digital Government Strategy calls for embracing the opportunity of the digital world while ensuring mobility, security, and efficiency. As Federal employees continue to reap productivity gains as a result of using mobile devices, government data is potentially at risk. In addition to password protection issues, 85 percent of Federal employees have downloaded an app to their personal smartphone or tablet, which opens a device to more risk for attacks. Security needs for mobile devices are apparent; according to a recent GAO report, malware attacks directed at mobile devices increased by 185 percent in less than a year.

“We can all agree employees are mobile. It is our responsibility to ensure access to government data is secure,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of Telework Exchange. “Proper training and technology will ensure agency networks and data are secure, regardless of where you are.”

According to the report, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, the Interior, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Defense make the grade for the Mobile Security Honor Roll. Respondents from these agencies are ranked high in password protection, multi-factor authentication, secure remote connection, remote data deletion, global positioning system tracker, and biometrics. However, while many agencies provide basic mobile support training, the study shows there is still progress to be made in creating secure and governable BYOD (Bring your Own Device) policies.

“IT transformation, helped by the adoption of mobile computing, is at an all time high within the Federal government. As more Federal employees introduce their own smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to work, managing these devices over an IT infrastructure they can trust becomes crucial,” said Kyle Keller, federal cloud business director at EMC Corporation. “Implementation of policy, training and technology will be necessary to ensure the best security and control in this new era of increased mobility.”

Despite the security risks that mobile devices present, mobility brings significant productivity savings – 95 percent of respondents say their work has improved as a result of having access to mobile devices. Mobile users gain an average of nine hours a week in estimated productivity, equating to $28 billion in productivity gains.

“Digital Government is a necessary evolution of technology adoption by Federal agencies as employees take advantage of consumer mobile devices to be more productive at work and in their personal lives,” said Aileen Black, vice president, VMware Public Sector. “The many user and IT administrator benefits outweigh the risks if organizations have the proper end-user computing infrastructure and solutions in place to support a mobile workforce.”

“The Digital Dilemma Report: Mobility, Security, and Productivity – Can We Have it All?” is based on a survey of 314 Federal government employees who use mobile devices and participated in an online poll in November of 2012. The report has a margin of error of +/- 5.49 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

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