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Many workers are returning to their jobs after the holidays sporting new smartphones and other gadgets that ensure they are never far from an always-on connection. And many want their gadgets to be connected to their network at work.
The problem is, a mobile phone, in many cases, is as powerful as a desktop computer. And while a great deal of effort is put into ensuring data security at the office, mobile devices are, increasingly, the weakest link when it comes to corporate data protection.
Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Traverse City-based Ponemon Institute, studies mobile security. Next month, his 44-employee company plans to release a report on the topic.
"Most people are on 24/7," Ponemon said. "To them, there's a workplace, they have a job to do. But if their friends send them a message or a tweet and they want to participate in some kind of communication, they're not going to wait."
Employers could ban personal use of smartphones while workers are on the job, but that is not an answer for everybody.
"If you tell people they can't do it, it changes the culture of the workplace," Ponemon said. "Some people say, 'Look, you do that, and you're going to lose some of your best and brightest people.' "
Even forgetting the problem of worker inefficiency because of social networking — Ponemon estimates that employees waste 20 minutes to an hour each day on Facebook or Twitter — the bigger problem is in compromised security.
The most common security problem is a low-tech one: According to a recent Ponemon Institute study, 2 percent of all smartphones issued by employers or personal phones used for work are lost or stolen. Many of these devices contain confidential company information.
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