Smartphone Losses on London Transport Reveal Data Risk for SMEs

Smartphone Losses on London TransportThe flexibility of remote working and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes is perfect for small business owners who can’t afford either the expense of hiring a large number of permanent staff, or the luxury of providing each employee with a company mobile device.

With such measures in place, small business owners and employees can ensure that they are contactable at all times – even when they are on the go. But according to data from Transport for London, this move could unwittingly be putting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at great risk. A Freedom of Information request by McAfee revealed that 15,833 mobile phones and 528 laptops were handed into TfL as lost property in 2013 alone.

The data also uncovered that tablet losses have increased by a massive 2876% over the past five years – from 17 devices to 506 – a sign that tablet adoption across London is becoming the norm. As enterprise-ready tablets such as Amazon’s latest Kindle Fire HDX increase in popularity, this figure looks set to soar even further.

This proliferation of ever more powerful mobile devices is a matter of great concern for SMEs. Smartphones and tablets hold a wealth of business and customer data, which could cause critical damage to a business’ profits and reputation, should the devices be picked up by the wrong people. Recent stats from Juniper show that more than 80% of smartphones are unprotected from malware and attacks, making forgetful staff highly vulnerable to identity theft on their commute to and from work.

It is therefore essential that small business owners educate employees about securing their own devices and using company data responsibly. In addition, all devices commissioned by the company, including USB sticks, smartphones, tablets and laptops should be logged and secured, as these are all potential goldmines for hackers and thieves.

Many employees may not fully understand the risks of losing remote devices, so it is a good idea to make it a company policy that any technology holding company data must be reported if lost. By implementing mobile management software, small business owners will be able to block any access to the company network as soon as a device is reported as lost, as well as prevent access to data stored on the lost device.

As the TfL figures highlight, it’s incredibly easy to misplace a smartphone or tablet when amongst the hustle and bustle of London’s transport. In some lucky cases, lost devices will get handed into lost property, but in many others they will get snatched by opportunistic thieves. Accidents happen, so it is important to put the right employee education in place to ensure that staff know how to prevent a simple mistake from becoming a business nightmare.

Raj Samani is the Chief Technology Officer EMEA for McAfee

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