A few years ago, my son had a long commute to and from work, so he took a commuter bus with free Wi-Fi connection. Some days he’d use his smartphone to play computer games or check in with his social media sites. Other times he logged in to the corporate networks to answer email or catch up on a project.
My son was hardly alone using his mobile device on his commute. According to a new survey from GFI Software, 83 percent of the 1,000 office workers surveyed reported using their mobile device on public transportation, and many of them are using the public Wi-Fi if available. The survey also found that 95.6 percent of respondents acknowledged that they used open, public Wi-Fi connections at least once a week to carry out work-related tasks such as sending and receiving email, reviewing and editing documents, and accessing company servers. Another 34.2 percent of those respondents reported they accessed public Wi-Fi at least 20 times per week during their commutes, with some employees saying they connect more than 70 times per week.
Nearly everyone surveyed also stated that they use their personal device for work purposes (97.3 percent) and, perhaps most disturbing from a security standpoint, about 20 percent of those devices have no security enabled whatsoever.
The research findings reveal a stark and concerning trend among commuters – one of using their personal devices to catch up on work during their commuting downtime, but doing so over highly insecure Internet connections that can be easily intercepted by other users or the operator of the access point. Mobile Internet access is now firmly entrenched as a day-to-day norm, but with that has come an increasingly relaxed user attitude to data security, compliance and data governance policy. Companies need to address mobile device management to ensure that use in insecure environments doesn’t create vulnerabilities that could be exploited by criminals – both cyber and conventional.
The survey also pointed out that 40 percent of the commuters are using their 3G or 4G connections to access the Internet and the company network, but now that unlimited 4G is all but a distant memory, I would guess that many people are like me – more apt to log into free Wi-Fi so I can save my data allotment for other things.
This survey should serve as a wake-up call to all IT departments about how much their employees are relying on public Wi-Fi. How many of your employees use the downtime on the train or bus to check email or read over spread sheets? Even on lunch breaks, employees may sit in a local restaurant or coffee shop with Wi-Fi and catch up on email or work undisturbed on a report.
How does your BYOD policy address the use of public Wi-Fi? If you can’t answer that, it is time to revisit your policy.