Recent trends in enterprise mobility find workers are shifting away from the BlackBerry handsets that have dominated the workplace for the past decade and toward newer mobile platforms.
According to a recent study from Forrester Research, smartphones based on Google's Android and Apple's iOS now account for 26 percent and 22 percent, respectively, of the mobile devices used by the U.S. workforce. Research In Motion's BlackBerry still represents 42 percent of the space, but this is the first time the iPhone and Android devices have combined to offset BlackBerry dominance.
“We expect a tsunami of mobile user demand for access to portals, productivity tools and back-end transactional and reporting systems as these devices make it into the hands of the broader workforce,” said Matt Brown, vice president at Forrester.
While these newer devices may offer more applications in terms of productivity and functionality, many companies are finding they also present data security headaches for IT departments. The study, which surveyed more than 1,600 U.S.-based workers, found that 48 percent of respondents do not consider what mobile platform their companies support when purchasing a smartphone.
One of the main reasons BlackBerry has been a staple in the workplace is its security. Though earlier BlackBerry handsets lacked the functionality of today’s smartphones, IT departments were confident in their abilities to protect the devices from hacks, viruses and other cyber threats.
However, as the iPhone and Android devices become more popular, cyber threats aimed at mobile phones have increased as well. According to a December 2010 study from AdaptiveMobile, mobile malware grew by a third last year, as cybercriminals see more vulnerability in these newer smartphone platforms.
This isn’t to say that smartphone security options aren’t available. But many businesses are challenged to adjust their mobile policies to support these new devices, whether due to an unfamiliarity, lack of funds or otherwise.
Emphasizing this point, a separate study from the NPD Group found smartphone users are aware of the data security implications of their mobile devices, but very few are addressing the issue. According to the report, nearly 40 percent of respondents said they are concerned about viruses, hacking, monitoring and credit card information theft. However, only 18 percent have installed security products on their phones, the study found.
In the workplace, the onus is inevitably on the company to ensure its employees’ mobile activities aren’t putting sensitive data in jeopardy. But, as evident in these studies, more steps still need to be taken.