Securing Your IT Environment for Today’s Mobile Workforce

0914HP_PadlockArtThe mobile phone has come a long way from the green-screened device with a removable faceplate. Today’s mobile phones are “smarter,” playing multiple roles including video conference host, alarm clock and keeper of emails, bank account information and precious family photos.

More than just a consumer gadget, smartphones – as well as tablets – have moved into the office, replacing desktops and laptops for employees who find that they spend more and more time working outside the office. This shift to working remotely is no longer considered to be the exception, it has now become commonplace. In fact, IDC predicts that 30 percent of the worldwide workforce will be mobile by 2015. Talk about a growing mobile workforce!

With the proliferation of mobile devices in the office, new security threats arise daily as more and more devices gain access to company networks and servers. Rather than view an increasingly mobile workforce as a potential barrier to a secure IT environment, IT managers should consider this an opportunity to embrace mobile technology and give their existing environments an upgrade.

Looking to integrate mobility but aren’t sure about how to take the first step? Here are four tips that can help you better secure your IT environment for a growing mobile workforce:

1. Conduct a mobility audit

Did you know that seven out of ten smart connected devices – including PCs, laptops and tablets – are smartphones? Imagine how many emails are sent and video conferences are conducted from each handheld device!

Before you can put a new mobility strategy in place, you must first survey your office’s IT landscape.

Have you noticed employees using their mobile devices and tablets during meetings? Does a significant amount of your staff work remotely? If either of these scenarios ring true for your office, now may be the time to develop a security strategy for your mobile devices.

2. Develop a security strategy

Securing all devices, including employee-owned devices that access the company network can be a major pain point for IT managers. One growing area of concern for IT managers and consumers alike is the increase of device theft in the U.S.

Consider this:

• Last year, more than three million Americans were victims of smartphone theft. (Consumer Reports)

• Approximately 62 percent of smartphone users do not employ simple safeguards, such as a four-digit password. (Javelin Strategy and Research)

• Nearly 32 percent of smartphone users save personal login information on their device. (Javelin Strategy and Research)

As the old saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” Don’t wait until your network suffers a data breach before creating a plan of attack. Get ahead of security threats by developing a solid security strategy that is inclusive of mobile devices.

A comprehensive mobile security strategy should be inclusive of your entire IT environment and have a four-pronged approach that allows you to:

• Protect all devices that access your company’s network

• Protect printed documents deployed from your printing fleet

• Protect and encrypt data that is transmitted within your network

• Monitor and manage your entire fleet

3. Secure your print environment

When businesses think about IT security, they typically consider the obvious threats: servers, networks, PCs and laptops, and building security. More often than not, printers are generally the most overlooked component of an office’s IT environment. Like mobile devices, printers have also gotten “smarter” and now give users direct access to the cloud.

While greater access to data is ideal, your printing fleet can also leave your network vulnerable to a data breach. Imagine that your company’s network is a house. You always remember to lock the front door, but occasionally leave a window open. Not securing your print environment is like leaving the window open.

The Ponemon Institute recently reported that the average cost per incident of corporate information theft is $5.5 million dollars. Surprisingly, most corporate data breaches are caused by human error. You can help reduce the likelihood of an accidental breach by educating employees on your new security strategy.

For example, implementing a secured mobile printing policy in your office is one way to create a virtual safety net for paper and digital content that all employees can utilize. Near-field communications (NFC) technology gives users the ability to transmit small amounts of data simply by touching their smartphone or tablet to a printer, making it easy to securely print from mobile devices.

4. Simplify the user authentication process

Many large offices require employees to use authentication methods to securely enter rooms containing confidential information. It is also common for employees to enter username and password credentials in order to access office technology.

Hospitals and medical offices that require employees to authenticate their identity via a badge or PIN number can also benefit from the ease of near-field communications. NFC touch-to-authenticate capabilities allow users to bypass a cumbersome login process by creating a one-step process: touch your mobile device to the control pad and your credentials have been verified.

Once you have established a comprehensive security strategy, educate your employees on how to utilize functions like mobile printing and touch-to-authenticate – then, lead by example. Transparent communication and demonstrated ease of use are key in influencing secure IT practices among your employees. The only thing left for you to do is to get started. The mobility landscape continues to expand and if you don’t act quickly, your business just may get left behind.

This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Workflow.

Michael Howard is the Worldwide Security Practice Lead for Managed Services for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group. Visit for more information.