Mobile in government continues to be one of the most pertinent topics facing public sector administrators. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports, “As of December 2012, 87% of American adults have a cell phone, and 45% have a smartphone. As of January 2013, 26% of American adults own an e-book reader, and 31% own a tablet computer.” Likewise, many of those devices are finding their way into the workplace, being used to access email, data and as a productivity tool used by employees.
Although the adoption statistics are clear in consumer markets, government has been slower to adopt mobile. In Symantec's recent infographic, focused on how to securely implement bring your own device (BYOD) within an agency, Symantec shares a recent survey of federal managers that finds 70% of the respondents indicated they did not have access to mobile apps to help them complete their work, and just 6% are aware of plans for mobile app development.
With increasing pressures to adopt a mobile strategy, agencies are constantly looking at ways to capitalize on the mobile revolution, while remaining secure. When weighing the risk verse rewards of mobile adoption, the benefits of a secure mobile strategy are clear:
- Increased workforce effectiveness
- Improved data collection methods
- Immediate connection between the field and office
- Faster service delivery to constituents
- Heightened engagement with citizens
- Business optimization opportunities
Although there are varying degrees of mobile adoption across organizations, one thread these organizations do have in common is that mobile is subject to increased security risks. As we have highlighted some of the benefits of mobile adoption, having data breached or information compromised can have a dilapidating impact on government. As government is already working to improve public perception, trust and transparency, a data breach can set back initiatives to gain trust and improve engagement initiatives irrevocably. While reviewing a recent Symantec’s infographic, 6 Ways You May Be Losing Mobile Data, the infographic quickly highlights common ways you may lose data, and reminds us of the ease at which confidential or personal data can be lost:
- Device Loss and Theft
- Data Leakage
- Malware and Malicious Attacks
- Shared Devices and Passwords
- Jailbreaking and Rooting
- Wi-Fi and Wireless Snooping
Agencies are constantly setting up security protocols to act when these incidents happen and avoid incidents all together. Whether it is through multiple authentication procedures, remote wipes or stringent governance policies, agencies that have leveraged mobile have been extremely diligent in protecting data. The risks are simply too high not to focus on security.
Even though risks will always been pervasive, in the past few months, I’ve had the chance to speak with several industry and government professionals involved in crafting mobile strategies. Below I’ve charted out three common themes and best practices from my conversations, which can serve as starting points to remain secure while adopting mobile:
1 – Engage Stakeholders for Mobile
Much of this lesson involves proper communications. Agency leaders must engage with stakeholders (employees or citizens) to be sure that the application they are building, or the tablet strategy to be adopted, is useful and beneficial for the end user, and meets their needs. This involves identifying a clear business problem, and identifying how mobile is part of the solution. IT needs to speak the business language and business needs to speak the IT language. Everyone needs to be on the same page, working towards mutual goals for mobile adoption.
2 – Make sure to do your due diligence
There is no reason to rush into a mobile strategy. Agency leaders really need to focus on the impact of mobile, conduct a risk assessment and be absolutely sure they have taken care of all the necessary security requirements for mobile adoption. Many agencies I’ve spoken with have done small voluntary pilot programs to identify risks and potential challenges before large-scale adoption.
3 – Collaborate
There are many agencies doing mobile across government – find these people and talk through their common challenges and issues. People on the ground will give you the right insights, and you can learn from their experiences.
Mobile is a trend that agencies must be proactive in facing. As more devices continue to enter the workplace, organizations have little choice other than to learn and adopt policies to leverage tablets and mobile devices to capitalize on the opportunities which mobile presents.
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Symantec protects the world’s information, and is the global leader in security, backup and availability solutions. Their innovative products and services protect people and information in any environment – from the smallest mobile device, to the enterprise data center, to cloud-based systems. Their industry-leading expertise in protecting data, identities and interactions gives their government customers confidence in a connected world. More information is available on Symantec's GovLoop Page.