Stories about privacy invasions and hacking attacks make the news each week: from social media to government surveillance, our lives are becoming more and more public. In the corporate realm, the costs of a cyber attack can be huge: an IBM-sponsored study conducted by Ponemon Institute reported that the average cost of a data breach for an organization represented in the study was $5.9 million. Is the principle of privacy worth fighting for? How can modern businesses avoid cyber attacks?
Privacy: Everybody’s Prerogative
Many people claim that they are not concerned about privacy, declaring that they have “nothing to hide.” However, the nothing-to-hide argument is misguided because its underlying assumption is that privacy is about hiding bad things. This argument focuses only on surveillance or the disclosure of personal information, overlooking other privacy problems. It presumes a narrow perspective of what privacy involves, excluding much of the personal data that is actually at risk.
Although it may seem harmless for companies to collect small amounts of personal data, combining several sources of seemingly innocuous data can yield considerably more telling information. Another problem is secondary data usage, when data obtained for one purpose is then used for a separate purpose without the subject’s consent, such as when email addresses collected for a contest are sold to a third party. There are several additional forms of privacy invasion, including blackmail and the improper use of personal data to commit identity theft and other crimes.
Computing: Ideality vs Reality
In today’s world, blurred lines exist between personal and corporate computing in the case of smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and desktops. Independent of the type of device and location, most of these devices contain both personal and company data.
According to Consumer Reports, some 3.1 million mobile devices were stolen in the US in 2013. Not only is this figure almost double the number of devices stolen in 2012, it’s also of great concern considering how many employees have corporate data intermingled with their personal photographs, private events and email on their devices. People do not want to carry multiple devices or have an extra, dedicated machine at home to access work material. As such, there is often an unavoidable combination of both private and company data on a given device – whether the device is personally bought and used for work, or company bought and used for personal purposes.
Fixing the Problem
Smartphones can be attacked just like computers, and consequently should also be protected from unauthorized access. With the right software, security and productivity are both achievable. For instance, in the case of mobile phones used for business purposes, innovate solutions exist that allow 24/7 and location-independent access to e-mail and other enterprise resources via data stored on corporate servers. The main advantages here are two-fold: the user can work with data larger than the device can handle, and, importantly, the data are never downloaded onto the phone. Therefore, data cannot be lost or stolen if, for example, the smart phone is lost. All data is completely and securely located in the central corporate network (more information on the HOBLink Mobile website).
Ultimately, it is our responsibility to adopt defensive measures that prevent the dissemination of sensitive information. With the right mobile tools, we can ensure security and performance, making it possible to safeguard sensitive information.
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