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What’s the first thing the average employee reaches for when they wake up in the morning? Shockingly, it’s probably not coffee. It’s their smartphone. Due to the fact that this little hand-held computer can let you do almost anything online (including work items), it’s the most accessed piece of technology that people have. And with the increased access and productivity boost they get comes a price: data security. 

It’s not that Android and iOS smartphones are inherently less secure than laptops and desktop computers. The problem is that they’re typically personal devices and as such, they’re seldom protected against cybersecurity threats equally well. Often, employee mobile devices fly under the radar of security professionals, leaving their protection and patching up to employees themselves. You can guess how often that’s a priority.

The frightening statistic that only around 30 percent of Android devices and 20 percent of iOS devices are running a recently released operating system and benefiting from the latest security patches and features. That’s a huge problem, and the consequences can be severe for the entire organization. 

The Dangers of Unpatched Mobile Devices

Both Android and iOS smartphones are basically mini-computers whose performance and abilities can often put many decent business laptops to shame. No wonder corporate-owned and bring your own device (BYOD) smartphones are now essential to both on-the-go and in-office productivity. 

According to Microsoft, 80% of daily work is now performed on a mobile device (granted, that number changes by industry and department). What’s more is that most of this work is done outside the company’s secured and private network. Without even realizing it, employees are opening the doors to a dangerous world of mobile malware, hacking, phishing, and other threats that can lead to serious data breaches. 

For example, it’s known that roughly 40% of all mobile devices in the world, including the high-end phones from Google and Samsung contain vulnerabilities at the hardware level. As a matter of fact, as much as Apple would love for its customers to believe that only Android users have to worry data being secretly siphoned from their phones, the reality is that serious iOS weaknesses are discovered on a regular basis. This is just a practical fact of technology manufacturing. If exploited, these vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to run malicious code and get access to sensitive data using hidden and un-removable malware. 

Just this August, researchers at Citizen Lab disclosed that a Bahraini human rights activist’s iPhone was silently hacked by powerful iOS spyware that totally circumvented Apple’s security protections. While Apple was reasonably quick to release a patch, there is still a big portion of users who are still running the vulnerable version of iOS to this day. 

What Can Be Done to Keep Mobile Devices Updated? 

There are several approaches you can take to protect your employees.

Make sure end-users understand the importance of patching

Education is a critical part of security, and it’s also a great way to encourage employees to install patches as soon as they become available. Your goal should be to help employees understand what and how to patch, providing plenty of real-world examples that plainly show how a single unpatched app, or a single delayed OS update can lead to an organization-wide data breach. Instruction guides are super helpful here. 

Create a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy

You should create a policy that clearly outlines your position on the use of personal devices for work-related purposes. If you decide to allow employees to bring their own smartphones and tablets to work, then you need to be highly specific about how the devices can be used and identify the precautions that you expect employees to take to protect themselves and your company. 

Use Mobile Device Management (MDM) software

With the help of MDM software, you can remotely update all mobile devices and the apps installed on them from a single location. You also get all kinds of other useful capabilities, such as remote device locking and wiping. 

Some of these approaches are more intrusive and difficult to implement than others, so it’s important that you find the right balance for your organization. 

It Takes a Cavalry to Keep All Endpoints Updated

Mobile devices are endpoints just like the Dell laptop in front of your salesperson. They absolutely must be protected with the same priority and care as endpoints are. Unfortunately though, mobile security is still a major gap for many organizations, and the risks and compliance concerns are serious. 

One of our key mantras at Help Desk Cavalry is that the cybersecurity chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Which is why we offer our customers comprehensive endpoint (yes, all endpoints) protection services that reflect each organization’s unique needs. 

Managing the planning, the policies, and the devices themselves can be a big task even for a small business. If you’d rather someone else keep your endpoints updated and well-protected so that you can concentrate on your business, then don’t hesitate and schedule a consultation with us. Security is our life!