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Why IT Security Staff Want You to Work at the Office

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When CEO Marissa Mayer announced she was ending telecommuting at Yahoo, she made an awful lot of people angry. Her reasoning, according to various articles, had to do with bringing the employees together for face-to-face collaborations. However, there may be a lot of IT security professionals who are applauding the decision for another reason.

According to a new report from Imation, IT decision makers have much less confidence in data security when workers are off site, even when the company has strong mobile security policies in place. One of the key findings of the report was this:

The survey asks IT decision makers about their confidence that data is protected from loss or theft while workers are in the office, at home and traveling on the road. The percentage of respondents replying “extremely confident” or “very confident” drops as a worker is more “mobile.” For workers who are in the office, 73 percent of IT decision makers across all geographies are either “extremely confident” or “very confident” that data accessed by employees is protected from loss or theft. For employees working at home, that number drops to 55 percent and further still to 47 percent for workers “on the road.”

However, the mobile workforce isn’t going anywhere. While companies can follow Mayer’s example all they want, employees will still work remotely. They’ll still check email on their smartphones. They’ll log into their home computer to pull together a report.

And the numbers above show that there is still a lot of work to be done to improve security in-house. Seventy-three percent is high, but remember, being confident about security isn’t the same as actual security. After all, how many surveys have we seen where the belief about a company’s security management didn’t match the reality? Taking that into consideration, I would suspect that actual security for mobile devices is much lower than the confidence levels.

So, maybe Marissa Mayer wasn’t off-base with her decision, especially in light of Yahoo’s recent security issues.  Even so, concerns with mobile security are only going to rise. Insisting employees show up at the workplace rather than work from home or the coffee shop isn’t going to stop the way we approach technology. Instead, the time has come to look at the numbers in that survey and figure out why we don’t trust mobile security. Once you understand why, you can start to improve it.

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