With data breaches costing companies millions of pounds every year, IT security policies must catch up with the challenges presented by the rise of mobile
Innovations such as mobile internet, cloud computing and portable equipment such as tablets, netbooks and smartphones have undoubtedly facilitated greater workforce flexibility and productivity, but they have also unleashed a new security threat.
When displayed on-screen, confidential information becomes even more vulnerable to data theft by opportunistic criminals and competitors. In a recent survey by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, it showed that mobile devices were recognised as the second biggest security concern, behind only application vulnerabilities, for information security professionals.
Recent high-profile cases involving stolen or misplaced disks and laptops have shown just how vulnerable data becomes to theft when taken outside the office. As more and more workers are likely to access and process company information in non-secure locations such as on a train or in a cafe, data can be stolen directly from the screen; for example, using a high-resolution camera-phone. The theft may even go undetected until unauthorised use of the stolen information becomes apparent.
According to research, data breaches cost UK organisations, on average, £1.9m per incident in 2010, although more than 96 per cent were avoidable. Recommendations include using data-loss prevention tools where on-screen information is vulnerable. The UK Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, recently commented that the message regarding data security has not reached the grassroots of many organisations, the end point at which information is particularly vulnerable. Rectifying this requires a combination of training, tools, and a culture change.
In 2010, a study commissioned by technology company 3M found that organisations were poorly prepared in relation to visual data security. Among working professionals surveyed in the US, 73 per cent were able to access corporate email via the web on a non-corporate laptop, and 57 per cent had, at some time, become concerned about visual data security. However, 70 per cent had seen no explicit corporate security policy governing working outside the office.
There are signs that organisations are responding to the visual data security challenges associated with mobile working. For example, 3M has been active in raising awareness of the issue with the government, and security policies are now being tightened. The Ministry of Justice, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Cabinet Office, Department of Health and the Treasury are among the departments now promoting the use of privacy filters to prevent unauthorised viewing of data. Large blue-chip organisations such as financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies and utilities are also adopting privacy filters.
A privacy filter can be applied as a screen overlay to prevent viewers not directly in front of the screen from seeing the information displayed. Filters can be provided in a wide variety of screen sizes, as well as a custom fit for tablet devices, and are optically designed to present a completely obscured screen to unwanted viewers. The filter also protects the LCD screen and reduces glare to provide the user with a comfortable and confidential experience.
Of course, the issue of visual data security is also relevant in open-plan or informal office environments where staff may view sensitive commercial or employee data on a “need to know” basis. Hence, privacy filters can help to maintain confidentiality inside, as well as outside, the workplace.
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