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How do you balance mobility and security in the modern workplace?

Mobility clearly matters to employees. Sadly, mobile technology means new security concerns for IT leaders. Biometric and two-factor authentication are crucial to balancing mobility and security.

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As more enterprises embrace flexibility and agility both inside and outside the workplace, the laptop, tablet and smartphone are fast becoming today’s key business tools. Mobile technology empowers a more dynamic working environment, where companies have scope to be more innovative and respond rapidly to customer demand.

It’s no wonder then that 87 percent of the IT decision makers surveyed in IDG’s recent Workplace of the Future survey were investing in flexible and mobile working, either for specific individuals and departments or for the whole company. When asked to pick the two devices that will be most important in the future, 80 percent opted for tablets and 84 percent laptops, against just 15 percent for workstations and 21 percent for desktop PCs.

Mobility clearly matters to employees as well; when asked what they want from a workplace of the future, 77 percent say more flexible working and 72 percent say access to information regardless of device or physical location.

Sadly, mobile technology means new concerns for IT leaders. Approximately 39 percent said that their biggest fear for the workplace of the future was the increasing likelihood of cyberattacks. Asked to pick the biggest technology risks, 52 percent chose cyberattacks and data loss.

Under threat from cyberattack

It’s no secret that laptops continue to a huge target for cybercriminals. Nearly 70 percent of respondents to the SANS Institute’s 2018 Endpoint Security Survey picked out corporate laptops as such, with 42 percent citing employee-owned laptops. Laptops have the same vulnerabilities as any PC and hold a mass of sensitive business data, yet they’re also more easily stolen or lost.

The good news is that laptop security is improving. Drive-level encryption is now so easy and transparent that there’s really no excuse. Windows 10 Professional has the richest set of security features of any Windows version yet. Strong security is also built into modern Intel processors and platforms, including hardware-assisted crypto acceleration and key generation, encryption for sensitive keys and credentials, plus features to check platform integrity during the boot process and protect data, processes and keys while applications run.

That said, authentication remains a vulnerability, particularly when password-based. Verizon’s 2017 Breach Investigation Report found that 81 percent of breaches involved weak or stolen passwords, while the 2017 report said that stolen credentials still topped the list of causes, followed by phishing attacks and access privilege abuse.

The future is biometrics

Biometric authentication through facial recognition or fingerprint readers is helping, as is the growth of two-factor authentication (2FA) methods. Yet fingerprint recognition is, a recent Gartner report suggests, only around 75 percent successful, due to contaminants like dirt or sweat.

In the future, Gartner research director, CK Lu, expects users to rely on ‘more convenient and accurate options for unlocking their devices’, including ‘Security technologies that combine machine learning, biometrics and user behaviour.’ Right now, however, there’s already a better way.

Fujitsu’s PalmSecure technology, as found in new Fujitsu laptops and 2-in-1 devices, uses an infrared scan of the oxygen-depleted blood veins within the palm of the hand. Each palm vein is unique and near-impossible to forge, not least because the authentication includes checking that the blood is flowing, and the whole process is contactless, hygienic and non-invasive, with a false rejection rate of 1 in 10,000 and a false acceptance rate of less than 1 in 10 million. If biometric and two-factor authentication are crucial to balancing mobility and security – and they are – then its these next-generation technologies that will take them to a whole new level.  

Glossary:
False Acceptance Rate = accept an access attempt by an unauthorized user
False Rejection Rate = reject an access attempt by an authorized user.

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