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The construction industry may not seem like a prime target for cyber threats, but it is. From dealing with large dollar amounts, to conducting business across numerous access points, to managing copious amounts of confidential data, construction companies make an attractive prize for cyber criminals. This will only become more the case as the industry continues to embrace mobile technology—which for all its benefits poses a significant security risk, especially for construction businesses with a dynamic workforce.

When sensitive information is accessed and shared on mobile devices, it becomes increasingly vulnerable to theft. A smartphone left unattended at a jobsite, a tablet that disappears from the office at the end of a day—just one missing or stolen device can lead to a catastrophic data breach.

The good news is that the solutions many organizations already leverage to manage mobile-device usage can also enhance the measures they rely on for digital security. A contextual mobility management solution can turn off access to work apps and data on any mobile device the minute it leaves the workplace, wherever that workplace may be. And without access, the device poses no risk to sensitive information even if it’s lost or stolen.

Traditional Safeguards

Firewalls and cybersecurity software have become a necessity for almost every business. Many employers use an enterprise mobility management  platform to make mobile devices more dynamic, giving workers the apps and data they need to do their jobs better. EMM encompasses not only devices but the operating systems, cloud servers and services that power them, and an EMM service provider typically will recommend cybersecurity tools paired with its platform, providing a second layer of security to protect those assets.

While these dedicated security solutions are essential, they may not provide absolute protection. Especially in the field, with project data passed among contractors, inspectors, trade workers and others, sensitive information can still face significant risk of theft—and even a small breach can have dire consequences. The Target data breach of 2013, for example, was made possible through stolen network credentials from a small mechanical contractor.

The traditional approach to data security is no longer adequate. The fluid nature of work today has prompted the need for organizations to modernize their security measures and add a critical layer of protection.

The Missing Layer

Many enterprises are now augmenting their conventional security measures with adaptive device management tools such as contextual mobility management technology. Construction companies may already be using CMM to regulate employees’ use of smartphones and other mobile devices on the job, including while driving to and from jobsites. The key to this approach is recognizing context—where a device is, who is using it, how it’s being used and what’s happening around the user at the time.

CMM comes to life in two ways:

  1. Fixed perimeter: Fixed-perimeter security works well for industries in which a worker’s physical location—and thus the device that worker utilizes—is largely the same. Consider a tablet used for managing and picking inventory in a warehouse. Employees ideally remember to leave the device behind when they’re off the clock. If the device were to leave the premises, however, CMM would recognize immediately that it’s outside of secure bounds and apps that provide access to sensitive data would be removed automatically. When the device returns to its assigned location, those features would be automatically reinstated. Security is applied in real time whether the device is lost, stolen or accidentally taken off-premises.
  2. In the field: The second way CMM comes to life is for employees who work in the field. In situations like a jobsite where the worker’s location is fluid and the worker consistently moves throughout a shift, CMM enables device functionality to dynamically adapt based on context such as time of day, movement (such as when driving), workgroup and more.

CMM doesn’t replace a dedicated security solution, but it enhances security measures in the same way it enhances an EMM solution. Adding this contextual layer to a more traditional suite of security solutions means employees have access to exactly and only what they need for a specific job, while the apps and content that aren’t necessary for the job are temporarily removed from the device. It also means access to sensitive data can be dynamically managed based not only on user or schedule but location and what’s happening around the device at the time it’s being used. This does away with the need for the employee or IT staff to police device usage around what is or isn’t considered appropriate.

The ubiquity of smartphones continues to influence the way construction professionals want to work, especially as their use of mobile devices in their personal lives has an increasingly heavy influence on how they want to utilize them on the job. This trend will not slow down. Construction executives need to ensure that their data security keeps pace. 

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