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Attacks on Mobile Devices Rise



Companies of all sizes are being hit by mobile attacks and feeling the effects for extended periods of time, according to the 2020 Verizon Mobile Security Index.

RSA CONFERENCE 2020 – San Francisco – The theme of Verizon’s 2020 Mobile Security Index is innovation – on the part of both enterprise security professionals and the attackers trying to work past their best efforts.

Mobile devices are getting abused by cybercriminals, but companies are still giving those devices the security short-shrift. “About 40% of our respondents across the board report having a mobile security compromise,” says Bryan Sartin, executive director of global security services at Verizon. That’s an increase from 33% of organizations in Verizon’s 2019 report.

The annual report, released here today, is based on surveys and interviews with more than 1,100 business and cybersecurity professionals. 

While many companies have experienced a mobile compromise, 43% report that they have sacrificed the security of mobile devices in the name of “getting the job done.” And the main reason for security sacrifice will sound familiar to most security professionals.

Nearly two-third of those responding, 62%, said that expediency was the reason for short-changing security, while 52% listed convenience. The short-term convenience of lowering security standards had ramifications that persisted, though: According to the report, 66% of companies described the impact of mobile security breaches as major, and 55% said that the impact was long-lasting.

Small and medium-sized businesses made up 28% of the victims, while those with over 500 employees represented 44% of the total. The small and medium-size business portion of the population is growing in both total representation and the importance mobile devices play in their business, Sartin says.

“80% of our respondents in small, midsized business say that mobile security is now key to productivity and profitability. That’s huge,” he says. “That was a nonexistent number last year. And now, 84% say that they are almost completely reliant on cloud and mobile security.”

The use of cloud- and mobile security echoes the adoption of mobile devices and cloud services in general, and Sartin says that there are numerous reasons for companies to be adding to their populations of both mobile devices and cloud applications.

“Adoption for reasons like scalability, flexibility, diversified supply chain work from home employees, and increasingly, mobile workforces that have to get access to protected company systems, data, and platforms are driving this,” Sartin says. “I think the necessity to have this functionality available is driving things, and that security is an afterthought.” 

How to Protect Mobile Devices

Containerization of both apps and data on the mobile devices one way to protect mobile devices from attacks.

“Containerization has two interesting side effects,” Sartin says. “One, of course, is creating kind of an island out of each device. It makes it very difficult to compromise consumer and personal information, as well as broader compromises on the corporate side,” he explains. “So it makes pivoting more difficult. It also allows you to implement certain security countermeasures defensively, like password rotations, forcing those down on the end user.”

A zero-trust model of security is another way to protect mobile devices, according to Verizon.

In the Verizon report, Aspi Havewal, director of collaboration and mobility at Verizon, provides additional advice. “First and foremost, prioritize the user experience. Make it part of every risk discussion you have, because a bad user experience is a big risk in and of itself,” Havewal said. “You should give your employees a range of options to do their work securely, and stay connected with your users. The more you communicate with them about the policy and controls that are in place, the more your users will appreciate security.”

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Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and … View Full Bio

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