Mobile Devices Drive Gains but Create Risks
By Samuel Greengard
It's hardly news that mobility is driving enormous changes in government and business. However, a recent study conducted by Telework Exchange demonstrates just how rapidly and profoundly things are evolving. "The 2013 Digital Dilemma Report: Mobility, Security, Productivity—Can We Have It All?" found that while mobile adoption is soaring—and providing huge benefits—there's a strong and growing need to reexamine security and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy awareness.
Telework Exchange surveyed more than 300 federal employees who use mobile devices to better understand the end-user perspective. More than half of respondents (55 percent) are now using their own smartphones for work.
Cindy Auten, general manager of the organization, noted that there is a "growing responsibility to ensure that access to government data is secure." Altogether, 76 percent of respondents said they access government data from their devices, 72 percent access their work desktop remotely, and 42 percent store work email on their smartphones and tablets.
The good news, according to Telework Exchange, is that federal workers gain about 9 hours per week in estimated productivity. Overall, this equates to about $28 billion annually in gains. An overwhelming 95 percent of federal employees report that mobile devices have improved their ability to work.
Most of these gains revolve around better communication, improved customer service, enhanced collaboration and increased productivity. At present, 93 percent use a laptop for work purposes, 64 percent rely on a smartphone and 19 percent use a tablet.
The bad news—which shouldn't come as a shock—is that security concerns are growing, and mobile adoption is creating substantial risks. While agencies are taking steps to improve mobile security, most aren't addressing BYOD risks adequately.
For example, 80 percent of federal employees noted that they have reviewed written mobile device security information, but only 11 percent who use personal devices for work say that their agency has a BYOD policy. In addition, only 8 percent said that their agency has set up an app store.
The report covered a number of other areas. Respondents recognize that storing email on devices without strong password protection can present risks. Overall, 57 percent indicated that they would consider paying to have their personal device updated or certified as safe. However, others admitted that they take liberties with security.
One in three respondents said they do not have any form of password protection on their device, and others admitted to storing a large number of passwords on their personal devices. One federal worker noted: "Because of the multi-layer security on my work device, it is sometimes easier to get work done by emailing it to my much faster personal device, which has less security."
Some also said that their agency could do more to ensure that devices are up to date and that IT could do a better job of overseeing and implementing security requirements. At the same time, these protections are sometimes cumbersome and wind up blocking productivity apps such as Skype and FaceTime.
Finally, the report noted that some agencies have taken a leadership position. This includes the Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and Department of Homeland Security.