Nov 22 2013

Smartphone Theft Is on the Rise: Here’s Why Governments Should Be Concerned

Thieves are after devices and data. Here are a few tips to keep your users safe and secure.

In New York City, cell phone theft accounts for as much as 45 percent of the city’s crime. In fact, in 2012 alone, 16,000 iPhones were stolen in New York City, according to CNET. Smartphone thefts are common because there is a lucrative secondary market for stolen devices in places like pawnshops.

New York City’s leaders are asking tech companies to take action:

Newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman want Apple and other manufacturers to take things a step further by forcing them to include kill-switches on every phone.

Companies have been reluctant to do this, as it carries privacy risks and leaves the technology vulnerable to outside interference.

This is exactly what local governments are afraid of. Whether agencies choose to issue government-owned devices or pursue bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, there is no silver bullet when it comes to security. Manufacturers are hesitant to beef up security, users are looking for convenience, and governments are left to deal with the negative effects of lost devices.

As FedTech reported in a recent article on cybersecurity, users are nearly always the weak link when it comes to mobile security. A few key statistics point to other risks besides theft:

  • 49% of agency security breaches are caused by a lack of user compliance. Tweet this stat.
  • 31% of end users say they use some kind of security work-around at least once a week. Tweet this stat.
  • 54% of users struggle to keep track of their passwords. Tweet this stat.

How can governments keep users happy and productive while balancing the growing challenges presented by mobile devices and software? There are two key strategies that every government must pursue to find this balance.

Mobile Device Management Software

In order for IT departments to keep track of devices, wipe data and manage threats, they need to deploy robust mobile device management (MDM) tools. There are plenty of options for organizations that are considering BYOD and still relying on government-owned devices. Here are a few articles to guide the MDM buying process:

Policy Implementation and Education

IT departments can’t blame users for being careless if they aren’t properly educated about how to use mobile devices safely. More importantly, it needs to be clear what data can be accessed and downloaded in the office and at home. Telework and BYOD initiatives complicate the matter, making it even more important that employees understand the implications of risky mobile device use. Here are a few resources to help governments plot out a safe mobility strategy:

Do you have a helpful tip for governments looking to secure their mobile devices? Let us know in the Comments.


Learn from Your Peers

What can you glean about security from other IT pros? Check out new CDW research and insight from our experts.