A new report by CDW's government division shows that federal workers are using their own mobile devices on the job. The question now is how does IT secure all these devices?
It might be called a case of
extreme bring-your-own-device (BYOD) syndrome. A growing number of federal
employees, including many in the defense or national security
industries, are using their own smartphones, tablets and laptops for work,
according to a new report by CDW Government (CDW-G).
The "Federal Mobility
Report" examines how government workers use mobile devices and the
challenges they bring to security.
CDW-G provides IT services
to government agencies as well as education and health care. The company
released the results of its survey on Feb. 7. For the report, CDW-G interviewed
414 federal employees and IT staff. Respondents worked in civilian, defense or
In November, the Obama administration
ordered that federal agencies limit the amount of mobile devices they provide
to employees, potentially leading to the rise of personal mobile devices in
government. In fact, 62 percent of federal agencies now allow employees
to use their own mobile devices at work.
Meanwhile, 56 percent of
federal employees use government-provided mobile devices and 44 percent of
federal employees use their own, CDW-G reports.
"Each agency should
take steps to limit the number of IT devices (e.g., mobile phones, smartphones,
desktop and laptop computers, and tablet personal computers) issued to
employees, consistent with the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Public Law 111
292), operational requirements (including continuity of operations), and
initiatives designed to create efficiency through the effective implementation
of technology," President Obama wrote in an executive
dated Nov. 9.
Employees using their own
mobile devices at work have led to the BYOD catchphrase.
"Given the executive
order that asked agencies to limit the number of IT devices they issue to
employees, including mobile devices, we expect that future growth of mobile
device use is likely to be of the BYOD variety," Neal Campbell, CDW's
senior vice president and chief marketing officer, wrote in an email to eWEEK.
About 99 percent of all
federal agencies have deployed mobile devices to workers in their agencies,
"Mobility is no longer
just a nice-to-have capability among the federal workforce," said
Campbell. "It's the norm."
Federal agencies, like all
industries, realize that mobile devices boost productivity and improve customer
service, Campbell noted.
Of federal employees who use
mobile devices, 89 percent said the devices make them more productive, and 69
percent of federal employees interviewed said mobile access would lead them to
serve citizens better.
Of the federal workers
surveyed, 58 percent of defense employees were likely to use a personal device
for work, compared with 30 percent for civilian government employees.
With more federal employees
using mobile devices, government IT managers will need to use mobile device
management (MDM) applications to keep both agency and personal devices secure,
Customized security products
from companies, such as AirWatch
BoxTone, allow IT workers to centrally manage encryption, multifactor
authentication, remote lock and wipe, as well as data-loss prevention. Good
Technology also offers security for smartphones that run Apple iOS and Google
Regarding data that can be a
potential security threat, 86 percent of federal employees viewed email, 44
percent had access to personally identifiable information and 37 percent
accessed employee records. Meanwhile, 31 percent could view financial data and
24 percent of respondents had access to classified information.
Despite concerns of security
breaches from mobile use, 82 percent of respondents said their agencies did
employ encryption, and 54 percent said their agencies used multifactor
authentication. Slightly less than half of respondents' agencies used remote
Although federal workers are
quick to adopt mobile devices, they're slower to use the apps on the devices.
The report reveals that 54 percent of agencies have developed apps for work
use, but only 12 percent of government employees have downloaded job-related
Federal agencies aren't
alone in accepting personal devices in the workplace. About 60 percent of
companies are adapting their IT infrastructure to accommodate employees'
personal devices, according to a Jan. 25 report
by IT services provider Avanade