Remember the classic “I Love Lucy” episode where Lucy and Ethel are wrapping chocolate candies on an assembly line? Production starts moving so fast, the gals can’t keep up with the pace and they try to cope by shoving the candies into their mouths and down their blouses.
The situation parallels what’s happening on our mobile devices. We’re stuffing them with so many apps – most that claim to be “free” – that we can’t keep up with the risks to our security and productivity.
You need to take control of apps in your small business today or suffer major consequences tomorrow. Several currents in mobile computing and small business are coming together to create a potential tsunami of trouble. These are the increasing dependence on mobile apps in business, the prevalence of employees using their own mobile devices, and the deluge of “free” apps.
Generally, the threats fall into two categories: security and productivity. Both are serious. We’ll outline each.
Intermedia published a report recently that looked at the relationship between small businesses and cloud apps. It found that the average small business was using more than 14 cloud apps and that each small biz employee had nearly six business-related cloud apps.
Considering time spent logging in and out, dealing with updates and all the other app housekeeping chores – and assuming employees are security conscious – these apps are costing a $15 loss in productivity per employee each month. How many employees do you have? Do the math and you’ll see that it can become a major drain on your bottom line.
Intermedia figured that just with logins that take about 20 seconds each, a small business that employs 75 people will waste 570 hours a year. The bill for this is nearly $14,000 in lost productivity.
But hey, if your employees don’t want to waste time logging in and out, they can just stay logged in all the time, right? How would that conform to your security policy?
Many small businesses are allowing employees to use their own mobile devices. It saves money and people know how their devices work. However, mixing business apps, with personal apps, along with business contacts with personal contacts, creates a new level of security risks.
When your employees are syncing their Outlook contacts, your business contacts – which you want to protect – are getting thrown into the mix. Add to this the fact that virtually every free app gets access to the device contact list and now you’re exposing your business contacts to a variety of unknown third-parties.
At worst you’re opening yourself up to corporate espionage; at best you’re exposing your business associates to spam. Also, don’t overlook what can happen to mobile devices when they are lost, stolen or “recycled.”
Privacy is Gone
Appthority just published its App Reputation Report where it looks at security and privacy risks posed by apps. Virtually every iOS and Android free app gets access to:
- Contact lists
- Device location
- Unique mobile device ID
Further, even 80-90 percent of all paid apps get similar access. There’s no escaping the fact that you and your employees are providing a wealth of information about yourselves and your business every time you accept the “terms and conditions” of a mobile app.
Most of the information collected goes straight to advertising networks. Security and privacy concerns are mounting for both the personal user and IT departments. Tracking the location of executives and hacking into devices or app developer databases to steal corporate information are no longer far-fetched scenarios.
Small businesses can’t afford to ignore the security and productivity risks when employees use mobile devices. App inventories must be taken and spurious apps removed from devices. If you don’t have a policy, now is the time to develop one and train your employees on it.
Image via Shutterstock
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.