Risk assessment of mobile working - new research

Risk assessment of mobile working – new research

risk assessment - mobile working

A recent report on the global mobile workforce has forecasted that by 2022 the percentage of people working from portable and mobile devices and who are not primarily location based will exceed 42.5% of the global workforce, accounting for some 1.87 billion people working remotely from mobile devices.

Benefits of decoupling workers and employees from physical locations to businesses and organiations

This increase in decoupling of workers and employees from physical locations is providing a number of benefits to businesses and organisations around the world including:

A more flexible pool of knowledge, skills and expertise from which organisations can draw for specific projects and purposes.
• Considerably lower overheads and costs for organisations, particularly in terms of providing buildings, office space, meeting rooms, refreshment spaces, et cetera.
• Decreased environmental costs, due to the reduction in travel required.

  • Increased human resource and talent flexibility, so that organisations can reconfigure human resources rapidly to meet emerging needs and trends.
  • Increased competitive advantage and profitability, due to:
    • the lowering of overhead cost
    • the increased availability of a talent pool that is global
    • increased reconfiguration and strategic flexibility
  • Increased talent development opportunities.
  • From the workers’ perspective, mobile working has a range of significant advantages including:
    • Ability to work from almost anywhere
    • Ability to work at any time
    • Increased flexibility
    • Ability to work on a number of projects at the same time
mobile working

However, there are also a number of risks associated with mobile working.

A new study

A new research review of mobile working and the risks that come along with a mobile workforce by a team of researchers from the Faculty of Social System Science at Chiba Institute of Technology, the Information Technology Centre at the University of Tokyo and the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Hosei University, all in Japan, has just been published.

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Firstly, the study found that:

  • Approximately 57% of organisations have had a mobile working/device security issue within the last 12 months.
  • 81% of organisations have experienced some form of Wi-Fi related security incident in the last 12 months.
  • 62% of organisations that use mobile working have had a Wi-Fi related security incident that occurred because of insecure Wi-Fi points in coffee shops and other public places.
  • Only 46% of workers using mobile devices outside of the workplace were found to be using a VPN, or virtual private network, which secures the connection between the mobile device and the organisation’s work systems.

The review/risk assessment of mobile workers and mobile working has found that there are at least 20 known risk factor categories to mobile working and mobile workers.

WiFi / Security issues

More Findings – Three primary levels that risks factors occur

The risk factors occur at three primary levels. Risks associated with:

  1. The workers themselves
  2. Outsiders
  3. Human, social and the environment

The risks associated with workers

The primary risk factors

The study found that there are eight primary risks associated with mobile working that emanate from the workers themselves:

  1. Accessing work files with personal (non-IT protected) devices – the risk here is the accidental loss of data, or misuse of data.
  2. Accessing other non-work related sites, apps, and emails – the risk areas of malware attacks, viruses, or Trojans.
  3. Non-compliance with security practices – elevated risk of a security breach
  4. Leaving confidential documents unattended on a device – risk here is of mismanagement of confidential documents or of their being copied and transmitted to others.
  5. Leaving devices unattended – this carries a risk of unauthorised access, misuse of information by other individuals/competitors.
  6. Use of unsecured Wi-Fi communication/failing to use a VPN or using an insecure or uncertified VPN – risk areas of leakage of information during connection to insecure Wi-Fi.
  7. Sharing devices and computers – this carries the risk of unauthorised access to documents and systems.
  8. The use of work devices for personal use – in addition to all of the above risks this carries an additional risk of personal and private data becoming mixed with organisational/work data.
risks associated with workers

The risks associated with outsiders

The risks associated with outsiders include:

  1. Physical loss or theft of the devices – this presents a clear loss of confidential data or the passing on of devices or data to other third parties with malicious intent.
  2. Shoulder hacking – obtaining personal and confidential data and information by what is known as ‘shoulder surfing’, whereby an outside individual watches the mobile worker from over their shoulder as they are working.
  3. Hackers’ gaining access to information – hacking can occur at the device, Wi-Fi/network or system level. It has been found that snippets of information and clues provided by mobile devices can be a significant help to hackers to access larger systems.
  4. Eavesdropping attacks – either through recording devices, such as key loggers or audio recording/transmission devices, and also digital eavesdropping on unsecured or compromised networks.
risk associated with outsiders

The risks associated with human, social and the environment

The study found that there are eight primary risk factors associated with human, social and environmental factors:

  1. Work-life balance risks, where workers find it hard to separate personal life and professional life. This can lead to burnout/reduced. performance/productivity
  2. Lone working risks, where workers begin to feel isolated, stressed or become ill informed and less effective as a result.
  3. Invasion of personal space risks, where work has the ability to impinge and encroach on the individual’s personal space, because works devices are carried constantly.
  4. General health and safety risks – this refers to the risks associated with remote workers’ suffering from accidents or illnesses whilst working alone.
  5. Feelings of exclusion from decision-making about their work – this has been found to cause significant work engagement problems.
  6. Lack of resources – remote workers can often suffer from inadequate resources and equipment to be able to carry out their work, or being left in the position where they are financially responsible for equipment that would normally be provided by an organisation.
  7. Reduced levels of face-to-face communication. This risks a sense of social isolation, but also a reduced sense of being part of a team.
  8. Lack of self-motivation/contact/encouragement from the employer. Keeping remote employees engaged and on task can be somewhat more problematical with mobile workers.
human, social and environmental factors


Dechen, T., Wangyal, S., Tanimoto, S., Sato, H., & Kanai, A. (2020). A Preliminary Study of Risk Assessment of Mobile Workers for Improvement of Work-Life Balance. Bulletin of Networking, Computing, Systems, and Software, 9(1), 43-45.

Flexible working arrangements have different impacts in different countries

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