The U.S. government has taken many steps during the past several years to increase its focus on technology as means of streamlining operations and promoting greater cost efficiencies. The latest such move is to embrace mobile technology, including giving employees the option to bring their personally owned smartphones and tablets to work.
"Employees increasingly expect to be able to work anywhere and at any time," CDW-G vice president Bob Kirby said. "Agencies responded first by deploying mobile devices, and now they are enabling use of personal devices."
This move toward a greater use of mobile devices may have started at the top, with the president. Several years ago, when then-candidate Barack Obama was on the campaign trail, his self-proclaimed addiction to his BlackBerry smartphone made headlines.
Once in office, Obama had said it would be difficult to give up his BlackBerry and all the benefits that come with it. Now, it appears as though he had nothing to worry about all along, as myriad government agencies have fallen in line with the skyrocketing use of mobile technology and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) management models.
For its research, CDW-G surveyed 414 federal employees and IT staff to gauge how extensively mobility is now being used in the public sector.
Overall, 99 percent of respondent said their agency or organization has deployed some form of mobile device program among employees. Eighty-nine percent have handed out smartphones, while 60 percent have deployed tablets and 94 percent have implemented laptops.
Thirty-six percent of employees polled said they use a smartphone on a daily basis. Nearly two-thirds said they spend at least an hour each day on their device, while 31 percent spend at least two hours.
Of course, data security is among the government's top priorities when it comes to mobile technology, but individual agencies may be falling short in some crucial areas, the study found.
For example, 82 percent of respondents said their organization utilizes encryption as a primary data protection measure. While that may seem high, it should really be closer to 100 percent given the wide array of confidential information handled by the government.
Only 54 percent use multi-factor authentication and, at 49 percent, less than half back up the data stored on employee devices. Fifty-five percent haven't implemented remote lock and wipe capabilities, which are among the most basic of mobile data security measures.
Government employees do, however, recognize the role they play in protecting confidential information. According to the study, 69 percent of government professionals acknowledged that data security is a shared responsibility, while 58 percent of government IT workers said the same.
"Federal employees – just like those in other industries – access a wide variety of data in the course of their jobs, from financial information to employee and taxpayer records to email and social networking accounts," Kirby said. "Employees understand the need to keep private information just that – private. But as cyberthreats become increasingly sophisticated, they need a full suite of security tools to help them."
Perhaps most surprising is the government's move toward consumerization and BYOD. One would think data security concerns over the use of personal devices would be enough to curb this trend among public agencies, but that's not quite the case.
In all, 44 percent of respondents said they have the option to utilize personally owned smartphones, tablets and other devices at work. Thirty-two percent said their agency strictly works with BYOD, while 12 percent said there is a mix of personal and supplied devices in use.
Again, this appears to be a trend that is fueled from the top of the government, according to Kirby.
"[T]he bring-your-own-device trend is likely to continue, following the Obama administration's November 2011 executive order that asked agencies to limit the number of IT devices they issue to employees, including mobile devices, in order to reduce costs," he said.
Although this increased presence of mobility and consumerization may be relatively new for the government, both are trends that took hold in the enterprise sector years ago. By the time the iPhone was released in 2007, when many agree mobility consumerization took off, organizations had already deployed smartphones to increase the productivity of employees.
And now they are taking their programs to the next level with consumerization. One such organization is Halliburton, the oil field services firm that played a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq during the past decade.
According to a Reuters report, the company recently announced that it will move away from its large-scale BlackBerry deployments of the past in favor of equipping employees with iPhones.
http://www.simplysecurity.com/category/spotlight/it_consumerization/Consumerization News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro