IT-Thinking Twice About the Cost of Free Apps

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Most people treat their mobile devices as an extension of themselves. People text, share, and play their way into two year relationships with the devices they use on a daily basis. In the typical mobile device “relationship,” individuals downloaded an estimated 83 apps in 2011, according to Piper Jaffray and analyst Gene Munster. While that number sounds high, it boils down to about 1.6 apps per week.

Many IT professionals have noticed this trend and are concerned about the use of free consumer apps in the work place. It’s hard to imagine that last week’s discovery of the security hole in Dropbox’s mobile app, by U.K.-based iOS app developer Gareth Wright, eased concerns about mobile security. Wright reported the security hole in Dropbox’s native mobile app that could be used to access personal information. PCWorld also confirmed that Facebook and LinkedIn mobile apps had the same core vulnerability. Widespread use, combined with security vulnerabilities, of consumer mobile apps have IT managers concerned.

Consumer mobile file sharing apps serve a purpose for users that want a quick and easy way to share and store things like family photos, recipes, and videos. However, these un-managed file sharing apps should not be used to send enterprise data of any kind. The security hole that Gareth Wright found in the Dropbox app is an unfortunate example that consumer mobile file sharing apps aren’t architected with the privacy and security measures necessary for an enterprise.

How can organizations prevent employees from using these consumer mobile file sharing apps? The answer is easy. Don’t give employees a reason to use these apps in the first place. Providing employees with an easy-to-use, secure file sharing and syncing alternative from the start is a great way to prevent the use of consumer file sharing apps. Employees should be able to send, share, and access files securely, while IT administrators ensure they’re protected from malicious content. Empowering employees with a safe and secure mobile application is the first step in the process.

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