How to protect data security in times of crisis

As businesses adapt to the realities of operating during a global pandemic, they’re thinking hard about the short- and long-term implications of the crisis: Will we ever reopen our expensive office buildings or will we become a virtual service provider? Will we be able to attract and retain new employees and keep our current staff engaged and productive? And can we enable our remote workforce to operate in a secure manner? With more employees using tablets and smartphones to access company applications and data since the COVID-19 outbreak forced them to work from home, bad actors now have more opportunities to breach corporate systems and are finding new ways to steal sensitive information. 

Hackers are preying on the widespread uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis, exploiting the public’s hunger for information about the pandemic. When employees use mobile devices and computers that are not properly configured for security, or when they themselves fall for online scams, they put their company’s data at risk. 

For example, phishing scams are taking the form of not just emails but also SMS text messages that appear to be sent from a local police department or charitable organization. Click on the link and suddenly you have ransomware installed on the device and are connecting to the core network, forcing your business to pay up or invest precious time and money on data recovery efforts. 

Fortunately, there are practical measures you can take now to mitigate these and other remote-working risks. If you don’t already have a mobile device management (MDM) solution, this is a good time to deploy one. In 2019, only 30% of businesses had an MDM plan in place.1 In 2020, that number has more than doubled and is likely to continue rising. Many businesses will configure policies using MDM that are focused on application management and protection in order to mitigate some of the risks associated with an increased use of mobile devices, such as shadow IT.

Cyber threats have evolved, but the risk remains the same.

Even the most tech-savvy employees can run into hurdles when relying on home Wi-Fi to perform essential work duties. The Wi-Fi itself might be unsecured if the owner never changed the default password when they first set it up. Another common misstep—downloading apps to remote devices that aren’t approved by the company’s IT or IT security teams. In the rush to get things done, someone might install a seemingly benign PDF viewer and accept the terms of agreement without realizing they’ve just granted that app approval to share any data stored or exchanged in that viewer. According to Verizon’s 2020 Mobile Security Index Report, 42% of surveyed employees used at least one public file-sharing service, and in total, each organization used an average of six different ones.2 This implies that many of these organizations are not standardizing the usage of these platforms, which increases the chance of data leakage. Educating employees about what’s an acceptable use of their devices, and putting technical controls in place to address data leakage, is a must. 

With more remote devices being connected to company networks from afar, the “attack surface” has grown, meaning cybercriminals have more entry points for phishing and ransomware attacks. Unsurprisingly, a wide array of these attacks leverage COVID-19 as a way to get attention. One very successful recent attack came from an e-mail claiming to link to a COVID-tracking map, but only delivered malware. Malware attacks have always been a cybersecurity threat, but they’re becoming more sophisticated. According to the Verizon Mobile Security Index, 45% of survey respondents admitted their threat defenses were falling behind the capabilities of attackers.3 It’s easy to see why many businesses that are already worried about their ability to survive and unsure of what the future holds, are also struggling to keep up with the ever-changing demands of cybersecurity.

Although the danger of cyberattacks has increased during this pandemic, the challenge has always been there—and so have the solutions.

A mobile device management (MDM) solution can provide the control, flexibility and security that businesses need to protect their data, maintain the system availability and service their customers securely. To understand the full range of possibilities, consider how an MDM solution could benefit your business. 

Mobile device management and mobile threat defense combined

Combining MDM tools with mobile threat defense (MTD) capabilities can greatly improve your company's overall security posture. MDM lets you enforce policies and restrict certain applications across your network, while MTD allows you to actively monitor devices and quickly identify attacks. Together, these defense mechanisms make significant contributions to your efforts to mitigate the risk of damage caused by a cyberattack.

Jetpack devices and dedicated networks

The sudden spike in the number of remote workers has spurned widespread interest in mobile hotspots, or jetpacks, which can help offset increased pressure on enterprise networks. With a dedicated jetpack device, businesses can limit congestion and decrease isolated connectivity outages. Deploying these devices can also help give businesses more control over data usage. Overall performance can be improved by moving data through private, dedicated networks without having to traverse through the public internet. Additional features may help boost productivity by easily providing access to online resources while simultaneously restricting access to certain devices.4 When utilized correctly, jetpack devices can significantly enhance operational efficiency, while also adding an additional layer of security through private channels.

Ultimately, deploying the right mobile device management solution plan coupled with an MTD solution can help give your business the security and efficiency that is needed across your remote workforce, empowering your employees to do more and worry less.

Learn more about how Verizon’s Mobile Device Management solutions can help your business.

1 Verizon Mobile Security Index 2019 Report

Verizon Mobile Security Index 2020 Report

Verizon Mobile Security Index 2020 Report