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New Litéra survey highlights security risks of mobile device use

The results of a new survey conducted by Litéra, a leading provider of productivity and risk mitigation solutions for legal and corporate markets worldwide, reveal that 96% of business professionals polled are using mobile devices to store, access and send sensitive material, and the majority are doing so without email encryption or metadata removal, thus posing significant security risks to their organizations.  Companies are beginning to recognize these risks and one third of the IT respondents say they now have server-based metadata scrubbing tools.

The 22 question, web-based survey (see attached PDF for more details  Litera Mobile Device Usage Survey Results 2012 ) polled 303 mobile device users (two-thirds of whom work in IT) across multiple industries – including life sciences, financial services and professional services – with the majority of the respondents working in the legal sector.  Some of the questions were posed specifically for and answered only by the IT participants.

The results revealed the extent to which mobile devices have expanded the reach of the office:
• 96% of respondents said they use their devices to access business email messages every day
• 89% store business documents on their mobile devices
• 86% forward e-mail with document attachments at least once a month (30% said they do so multiple times each working day)
• 34% have access to their organization’s document management system from their mobile device

Respondents report using a variety of mobile devices including iPhones, Androids and Blackberry smartphones, as well as tablets such as the iPad. While the review and editing of documents is done on smartphones, tablets are generally preferred for these tasks.

Even though just one fifth of the respondents said they currently use iPads, their use is predicted to increase by about 40% in the coming year. With this trend, along with the popularity of other tablets, out-of-the-office business activity involving the review and editing of documents that might contain sensitive material – including metadata – will continue to grow. The survey’s IT respondents said they were aware of this need for document security at the granular level and had taken steps to address the issue:

• Over a third acknowledged the high risk of sensitive information leaking via document metadata
• 92% have a metadata scrubbing solution in place, 32% have a server-based metadata cleaning solution (which scrubs email attachments sent from mobile devices)

Most of the IT respondents also saw a need for email encryption:
• 47% deemed encryption a high priority, 42% a medium concern and just 11% deemed it of little importance
•  However, only 16% of the respondents encrypt all their email while 75% encrypt some messages
• 56% of the respondents use a server-based encryption solution, 31% a desktop solution and 13% a cloud-based solution

“This survey confirms many of our suppositions about the mobile device security market.  It sheds new light on the increased prevalence of smartphone and tablet use in the business environment and the degree to which document security, including encryption and metadata scrubbing solutions, are needed to minimize security risks,” said Deepak Massand, Litéra’s CEO.

COMMENT: There is a lot of data to digest in this report however some issues and findings that immediately spring to mind include…

• Tablet use is up significantly with iPad use expected to rise from 20.7 to 28.7% .  This is interesting because:

– Since most firms are experiencing a massive rise of user-owned devices (BYOD) and the challenges around supporting and ensuring security, this information may prompt clients to choose to proactively purchase these devices to streamline and secure use (we have heard of several firms doing this, buying 800 iPads at a time and distributing to their lawyers).

– With mobile phones, users forward documents, but are unlikely to do significant document editing.  Tablets allow much easier editing, which means more sophisticated tools are required, and a variety of security measures become much more critical

• Blackberry Smartphones are expected to reduce in prevalence from 28% to 18.7%.  Since those devices were considered the most secure from a data perspective, this may prompt data security measures.

• 47% view email encryption as a high importance issue, but only 16.2% currently encrypt all emails.  This may prove useful in predicting future priorities and inform decisions related email encryptions solutions.