Securing mobile devices for a remote workforce

Issue 3 2022 Cyber Security

The work-from-anywhere (WFA) model has greatly expanded in South Africa as loadshedding forces remote workers to seek power from a multitude of sources, such as malls and coffee shops. This means they may be alternating between mobile phones, tablets and laptops across any number of potentially unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots. This mobility increases the cybersecurity risks presented by all these devices that are often poorly secured to begin with.

Doros Hadjizenonos.

Smartphones have become a critical part of the remote workforce toolkit. They are such an integral part of each person’s daily routine; people may regard them as trusted and safe. As a channel to your personal data, banking and accounts, and a link to your work and business data, smartphones drive cybercriminals directly to your pocket. As such, they may become the next big vector to hijack and weaponise in distributing attacks.

Mobile cybersecurity threats mostly align with the common threats, including phishing and malware, but they can also include mobile-specific issues such as application-based threats and device and OS-based exploits. Verizon’s Mobile Security Index 2021 found that while 71% of enterprises see mobile devices as critical to their business, 40% also see them as their company’s biggest security risk and 53% said the consequences they faced as a result of a mobile device-related security compromise were major. Moreover, the survey found that 93% of Android devices were running an out-of-date version of the OS, and 49% of workers allowed their family or friends to use their work devices.

Securing mobile devices

As an endpoint in the corporate network, the mobile device needs to be secured with strong PINs, passwords and even biometric logins such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanners. Multi-factor authentication is an authentication method that protects individuals and organisations by requiring users to provide two or more authentication factors to access an application, account, or virtual private network (VPN). This adds extra layers of security to combat more sophisticated cyberattacks, even after credentials or identities have been stolen, exposed, or sold by third parties.

As a key part of the WFA strategy, mobile devices also need to be protected within a Zero Trust model, which stipulates that trust should be explicitly derived from a mix of identity and context-based aspects. Further, zero trust network access (ZTNA) provides per-user access to specific applications, far surpassing implicit trust when it comes to security. Every device, user and application can be seen and controlled regardless of where they are connecting from. Implementing a zero-trust model provided by ZTNA ensures that whenever a user or device requests access to a resource, they are verified before access is given.

By unifying Fortinet’s broad portfolio of zero trust, endpoint, and network security solutions within the Fortinet Security Fabric, Fortinet delivers security, services and threat intelligence that seamlessly follow users whether on the road, at home, or in the office to provide enterprise-grade protection and productivity.

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