A new report released by the Ponemon Institute suggests data breaches caused by mobile devices are not as rare as previously thought. Last year, Verizon released a data breach report suggesting that while mobile malware is increasing, it is not yet a major threat for attacks on organizations. Attacks are conducted, but they tend to target individuals.

Are Corporate Data Breaches Caused by Mobile Devices?

Verizon determined that only 1% of data breaches use mobile devices as an attack vector. The Ponemon report suggests the figure is far higher, with 67% of respondents claiming the use of mobile devices by employees was certain or likely to have resulted in a beach of sensitive corporate data.

The Ponemon study, which was commissioned by security firm Lookout, set out to cast some light on enterprise mobile security risk. 588 IT security professionals employed by Global 2000 companies in the United States were asked about the threat from mobile devices.

The report suggests there is a disconnect between IT departments and employees when it comes to the data that can be accessed using mobile devices. Many IT departments have implemented controls to limit data access via BYOD or corporate devices. However, employees still appear to be able to access corporate data none the less

The study found significant discrepancies between the data IT departments said could be accessed, and the responses provided by employees. For instance, when both groups were asked about whether confidential or classified documents could be accessed, 33% of employees said access was possible compared to just 8% of IT security professionals. 19% of IT security professionals said mobile devices could not be used to access customer data, yet 43% of employees said the data were accessible via their mobiles.

IT departments must therefore implement better controls to ensure mobile devices cannot be used to access sensitive data, or employees must be trained on the potential risks from using their mobile devices. Policies would also need to be developed to dictate what mobile devices can and cannot be used for.

The Average Infected Mobile Device Costs Organizations $9,485

The report also looked into the cost of data breaches caused by mobile devices. The average infected device was estimated to cost an organization an average of $9,485.

According to the report, mobile malware infections are a real concern. For any given company, many of the devices in use are already be infected with malware. The study suggested that “Of the 53,844 mobile devices in the average Global 2000 enterprise, 1,700 of those devices are infected by malware at any given time.”

When asked about the protections put in place to manage data access by employees, many companies had already implemented a number of safeguards to keep corporate data secure.

47% of organizations used whitelists and blacklists, 40% used mobile device management, while 45% used identity management. However, more than 4 out of 10 respondents said that none of those security measures were used by their organizations.

With the threat from mobile malware high, organizations need to devote more time and resources to mobile device security. Fortunately, this appears to be the case. The Ponemon report indicates that mobile security budgets are increasing and will represent 37% of the IT security budget next year. A considerable improvement on the current 16%.