Government Goes Mobile

 
 
By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2012-02-10
 
 
 

The same mobile technology trends affecting the business world are rippling through the federal government. As federal agencies look to become more efficient, they’re embracing the same bring your own device (BYOD) approach that’s washing over the private sector and, not surprisingly, facing many of the same challenges.

Mobility is rapidly becoming a must-have capability, according to CDW-G’s first Federal Mobility Report. The IT retailer surveyed 414 federal employees and IT staff and found that 99 percent of IT professionals report that they have deployed mobile devices to their workforce and 62 percent allow personal devices for work. Overall, 60 percent of federal employees use laptops, 36 percent rely on smartphones and 9 percent use tablets.

“Mobility is the 'new normal’ for Federal employees.  It is no longer a nice-to-have capability, says Neal Campbell, senior vice president of CDW.

The BYOD trend will certainly gain further momentum, thanks to a directive signed by President Obama in November 2011. It limits the use of IT devices, including mobile technology, in order to reduce costs.

The study also found that agencies are approaching mobile security with mixed results. On the upside, an overwhelming 85 percent of agencies have introduced mobile data security policies and 84 percent require data security training for mobile users. IT professionals also report that 82 percent of agencies use mobile encryption.

On the downside, only 54 percent rely on multi-factor authentication, 45 percent use remote wipe, 44 percent have set up automatic software updates, 43 percent have deployed tools to prevent unauthorized downloads and 39 percent use data loss prevention software. As a rule, best practice organizations use these tools to build a more comprehensive security strategy.

The study also found that government agencies are lagging in the adopting of mobile device management (MDM) solutions. Although 71 percent of agencies say that they include MDM in their security efforts, many are not using the full suite of capabilities it offers.

Bob Kirby, vice president of federal government for CDW-G, says that agencies can benefit by adopting best practices. These include: evaluating and/or establishing a BYOD policy; assessing MDM requirements; auditing MDM tools to ensure that they meet the agency’s security goals; and incorporating the personal devices employees use into an agency’s MDM strategy.

“Federal employees are clamoring for mobile capabilities,” Campbell explains. However, “As mobile device use expands, it is more important than ever to lock down data and devices.”