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Unsafe consumer apps put mobile devices at risk

One of the consequences of BYOD is the inevitability of consumer apps in the workplace.

johnNielsenNEW2

Unsafe consumer apps put mobile devices at risk

consumer apps, risk, mobile application management


One of the consequences of BYOD is the inevitability of consumer apps in the workplace. As BYOD enables the convergence of work and personal lives on mobile devices, employee smartphones will be filled with apps that have business-related functions as well as those that workers use just for fun. CIOs need to look out for consumer apps that lack a strong security plan, and see to it that these apps are banned or enhanced with third-party protection controls.

Consumer apps may provide exciting opportunities for hackers - cybercriminals can set up fake accounts on these apps and use them to gain access to personal information. One extremely popular app, Snapchat, has been shown to have particularly weak security measures. While the app has a CAPTCHA verification step in its registration process, it can easily be bypassed by hackers. Steven Hickson, a research assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology, was able to fool Snapchat's security system using a program he developed in less than an hour, he told CSO Online.

Covering the risks posed by consumer apps
As consumer apps like Snapchat can become extremely popular just after their inception, business leaders need to realize that app management is often new and inexperienced in providing user security. This means that ensuring mobile device security is up to CIOs and IT departments - companies should not trust the built-in protection measures of consumer apps.

A strong BYOD policy stipulates which apps can be installed on employee devices, and it has a mobile device management (MDM) plan in effect. If decision-makers feel that certain consumer apps may pose a security risk, they should not hesitate to blacklist them. However, the installation of mobile application management (MAM) software on BYOD devices may allow employees greater freedom in the apps they can download, as MAM software offers the option to add security measures beyond an app's built-in controls.

The struggle of balancing work and play in BYOD
Companies that allow BYOD must understand that mobile device security is usually not a main priority of consumer app creators, as developers know that innovative, fun features are what will drive profit. Nevertheless, employees will fight for the freedom to install these apps on their smartphones so that they may use them for personal entertainment. If business leaders choose to make a compromise, it is crucial that it involves the implementation of MAM software, as the protection of company data is not something that can be put in jeopardy.

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