Mobile Threats Prompt Operational Changes for Government Staff

GettyImages/ JGI/Tom Grill

More than 80% of public sector respondents to a recent survey said they have been forced to re-evaluate workplace practices as attacks on mobile devices grow.

When the pandemic hit and much of the workforce moved online, employees’ personal phones and devices became targets for cybercriminals. IT teams quickly stood up secure remote work options, but almost four-fifths of respondents to a recent survey agreed that recent changes to working practices had adversely affected their organization’s cybersecurity.

Eighty-seven percent of public sector employees surveyed in the 2022 Verizon Mobile Security Index said they have been forced to re-evaluate how they operate as attacks on mobile devices grow. Government workers understand the importance of device security, as 88% of public sector organizations said that a mobile security breach could put people’s lives at risk.

Among enterprise respondents, 23% said their organization had suffered a mobile security compromise. Of those, 74% said the impact of compromising their mobile security was major, while 34% said it had lasting repercussions, which included spending money to clean up from an attack and bolstering defenses to prepare for the next one.

Across all respondents, 79% said that shift to remote or hybrid work has undermined the cybersecurity of their organizations, as remote work can make them more vulnerable to an attack due to the distribution of devices and less secure networks. Almost half of organizations said they suffered a cyber compromise in the last 12 months, up 22% from the same period in the previous year.

Public awareness of cyberattacks appears to be on the rise, too, especially after several high-profile hacks, including of six state governments by China, according to cybersecurity firm Mandiant. Of those surveyed, 64% said public awareness of cyber risks will increase in the future.

Still, mobile and remote computing is essential for government agencies. Almost 60% of public sector organizations said that while the use of internet-of-things devices is essential to accelerating innovation, it is a daunting security and privacy challenge. More than 70% of overall respondents said the use of mobile devices by government employees is essential as state and local governments look to digitize public services.

Despite the risks, the report said the experts interviewed were “optimistic” about the future of cybersecurity, with some saying the growth in awareness around the subject helped, while others noted the advances in technology and regulation and standards, which have hardened cyber defenses.

And some experts called on technologists across sectors to adopt a zero trust security framework. In the report, Sanjay Beri, founder and CEO of computer security company Netskope, said following the principles of zero trust “is the only effective way to dynamically manage risk across a mix of third-party applications and a remote-first workforce that needs always-on access to cloud apps and data to stay productive.”