Categories: Insights

Inappropriate mobile activity – how serious is the problem?

Mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads are inherently personal and we expect to be able to use them that way. Today’s businesses face the challenge of altering this user behavior to limit inappropriate mobile activity and make sure activity on company issued devices remains compliant.

It is generally accepted that consuming adult, extreme or illegal content on corporate mobile devices is inappropriate. But when you think nobody’s watching and that the only thing at stake is your personal reputation, the lure of the internet’s shady side might be all too tempting.

But what are the other risks, the greater risks, that can cause deep harm to the business and your personal life beyond mild embarrassment and judgment?

We unpacked the issue of inappropriate mobile activity to better define why these categories are so risky as well as how heavily they are used and how often people are attempting to access them on corporate devices.

What we classified as inappropriate mobile activity

  • Adult – Content containing explicit, pornographic material, non-sexual nudity, adult entertainment of a non-pornographic nature and other content designed for a mature audience.
  • Extreme – Sites that depict extreme or aggressive behavior including violence, hate, weapons, and sites containing graphic and inappropriate content which may cause offense.
  • Illegal – Sites pertaining to illegal activities including those offering downloads of illegal content and providing information on illegal activities, sites about child abuse, illegal substances and drugs, hacking and pirated software.

Malware lurks in the darkest corners

Malware can be found in any content category, but as this article states, almost a quarter of malware on mobile devices comes from porn websites. In other words, watching mobile porn on your smartphone is a much higher risk than watching it on your PC. Smartphone operating systems, especially Android, are not as secure as desktops, there are many vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by hackers.

The naughtiest apps and sites are also the leakiest

In our Mobile Leak Report, we discovered 200+ data leaks stemming from categories that most CISOs would consider to be safe from threat. But there are also other more obvious candidates for data leaks. Gambling, scam, adult and ad networks are by far the biggest risks for businesses.

Pornography and other adult content categories are notorious for lax handling of PII. In fact, 40 out of the top 50 adult sites were exposed at the time of research.

In line with this trend, the personal data of more than 800,000 users of the adult site Brazzers was exposed in September 2016, followed by a successful attack on 400 million accounts on the AdultFriendFinder network in November. A year previously, the controversial extra-marital dating app Ashley Madison was hacked, revealing the PII of every single user in its database.

Have you thought about the legal risk to your business?

As this article points out, corporate liability and vicarious liability laws ‘hold employers liable for the actions of their employees. Companies have been held responsible for a range of offenses, from sexual harassment when coworkers use work laptops to view sexually explicit content, to copyright infringement.

Although companies do not have a duty to monitor the private communications of their employees, the Human Resources department must ensure that no employee is subject to an intimidating, hostile or offensive workplace. Preventing inappropriate mobile activity on corporate devices that includes pornography, weapons and hate speech can help keep some types of inflammatory materials out of the workplace and reduce the risk of litigation.

So how naughty are your employees?

It’s important to remember that many of our customers have the option to (and do) block access to inappropriate content with our service. But when the blocks aren’t enforced it seems employees aren’t considering the risks of inappropriate mobile activity and cracking on with their work phones.

As part of our research, we first looked at how many people are successfully accessing inappropriate content. Then we looked at how many are attempting to access it but being blocked. The figures below come from a subset of 100,000 enterprise mobile devices across the US and UK.

We discovered 34 out of every 10,000 devices are accessing inappropriate content on a daily basis.

Our research also suggests that inappropriate mobile activity is highest on Fridays followed by Thursdays, while Monday is the least popular day for inappropriate mobile activity.

Of those employees that successfully access inappropriate content on their corporate devices, around 15MB of data is used per session. When looking at the usage trend throughout the day, it’s clear that employees are behaving themselves during work hours but browsing the dark side of the internet the most just after midnight. Usage increases from 8pm, peaking around 2-3am and remaining low throughout the working day.

Now, let’s look at the inappropriate mobile activity being blocked by our mobile content filtering solution.

14,229 attempts are made to access inappropriate materials each day, for every 100,000 devices. 

What does that mean for the average 1000+ employee enterprise? There are more than 140 attempts to access inappropriate material in their mobile fleet every single day.

The most blocks to these categories occur on Thursdays with the least occurring on Sundays.

When looking more closely at the data, it’s clear that this is typically a small number of individuals attempting to access this content quite frequently, rather than a large number of employees doing it a small amount. Statistically, there are a handful of rogue employees inside most organizations that regularly try to circumvent web filtering and desktop policy controls by attempting to access inappropriate material using their mobile data connections

Content filtering as a solution

Having devices in your IT infrastructure that can access the darkest corners of the internet introduces risk to your business. Adult, extreme and illegal content categories are far more likely to leak data, employ unencrypted technologies and otherwise expose organizations to risk.

Content Filtering is a proactive approach to security and user compliance. It provides the functionality to block high-risk sites and apps, which eliminates exposure to many threats before they even manifest.

Everything you need to know about Content Filtering on mobile

An intelligent Content Filtering program can solve many of the most difficult enterprise mobility challenges facing companies today. It could be your best defense.

Find out more

Liarna La Porta

Liarna La Porta leads content marketing at Wandera. As Editor of Wandera’s blog, Liarna keeps the content ticking that makes Wandera a reliable news source for mobile security professionals. Her passion for helping tech start ups in all aspects of marketing and PR is reflected in the expert industry coverage she provides. An Australian adventurist at heart, Liarna has been in the Marketing and PR industry for over six years working from Melbourne, Sydney, London and San Francisco, soaking up the expertise required for her global role at Wandera.

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