One-Third of Fed Personal Phones Not Password Protected

— January 21, 2013

More than half of smartphone users in the Federal government use their personal smartphone for job-related tasks. Yet, one in three workers do not have password protection.

That's the results of a new study released by Telework Exchange, a public-private partnership focused on demonstrating the tangible value of telework and mobility. The report, “The 2013 Digital Dilemma Report: Mobility, Security, Productivity – Can We Have It All?,” confirms the increased security risks associated with mobile device usage as adoption of smartphones and other mobile devices becomes widespread.

 
It's Easier
As one anonymous government worker is quoted in the report, "Because of the multi-layer security on my work device, it is sometimes easier to get work done by emailing it to my much faster personal device which has less security.”

Sponsored by EMC, VMware, Cisco and Carahsoft, the study reveals that 85% of Federal employees have downloaded an app to their personal smartphone or tablet, which opens a device to more risk for attacks. According to a recent GAO report, malware attacks directed at mobile devices increased by 185% in less than a year. 
 
"We can all agree employees are mobile. It is our responsibility to ensure access to government data is secure,” said Cindy Auten, general manager of Telework Exchange. “Proper training and technology will ensure agency networks and data are secure, regardless of where you are.”
 
The Cost of Productivity
Despite the security risks that mobile devices present, mobility brings significant productivity savings — 95% of respondents say their work has improved as a result of having access to mobile devices. The study concluded that mobile users gained an average of nine hours a week in estimated productivity, equating to $28 billion in productivity gains. 
 
“Digital Government is a necessary evolution of technology adoption by Federal agencies as employees take advantage of consumer mobile devices to be more productive at work and in their personal lives,” said Aileen Black, vice president, VMware Public Sector. “The many user and IT administrator benefits outweigh the risks if organizations have the proper end-user computing infrastructure and solutions in place to support a mobile workforce.” 
 
The Digital Government Strategy calls for embracing the opportunity of the digital world while ensuring mobility, security, and efficiency. 
 
Making the Grade
Also according to the Digital Dilemma report, the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, the Interior, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and Defense make the grade for the Mobile Security Honor Roll.  Respondents from these agencies ranked high in password protection, multi-factor authentication, secure remote connection, remote data deletion, global positioning system tracker and biometrics. 
 
While many agencies provide basic mobile support training, the study shows there is still progress to be made in creating secure and governable bring your own device (BYOD) policies. Only 11% of Feds who use personal devices for work say their agency even has a BYOD policy.
 
“IT transformation, helped by the adoption of mobile computing, is at an all-time high within the Federal government. As more Federal employees introduce their own smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to work, managing these devices over an IT infrastructure they can trust becomes crucial,” said Kyle Keller, federal cloud business director at EMC Corporation. “Implementation of policy, training and technology will be necessary to ensure the best security and control in this new era of increased mobility.”

The report is based on a survey of 314 Federal government employees who use mobile devices and participated in an online poll in November of 2012. The report has a margin of error of +/- 5.49%t at a 95% confidence level.

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