Today’s fast-paced, mobile world offers a myriad of solutions to help users communicate instantly. According to Pew, texting is the most widely used app on a smartphone, with 97 percent of Americans using it at least once a day. This comes at no surprise as text messages have a 98 percent open rate and a 45 percent response rate, according to recent studies. This is compared to the 22 percent open rate and 6 percent response rate of email. In addition, many have turned to free applications such as WhatsApp, Snapchat or dozens of others to try to enhance their communication experience.

The texting behavior we see in the consumer world often carries over in the workplace. Users expect the same consumer-focused applications and efficiencies they enjoy outside the office while at work. The communication efficiency supported by SMS, native-texting and messaging apps go hand-in-hand with enabling information literally at our fingertips.

But, our texting culture and habits outside the workplace can present key security challenges when consumer-focused apps are used for business communications. While consumer apps or native text may seem like tools to ensure that business gets done efficiently, their lack of security and message control can put business information, client data and IP at risk. This leaves many organizations asking – how can secure mobile communications be supported when asynchronous conversations and collaboration are a necessity for business? Enterprise-strength applications that support secure, ephemeral and compliant messaging can be the answer.

Security & Privacy Don’t Need to Be at Odds

Most employees do not have security at top of mind. They are more concerned about doing business “at the speed of business.” That does not mean, however, that security and privacy must be jeopardized. An enterprise messaging app that offers the same ease-of-use as consumer-based apps with best-in-class security and ephemerality can ensure that employees can communicate in a safe manner. Message ephemerality, which applies an expiration date to the message, keeps conversations secure and controlled while ensuring no data ever remains on the device or servers. With an enterprise messaging app, users also have the ability to expire, or shred messages on demand when necessary.

In the case of the recent Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack, more than 19,000 emails were released during the Democratic convention, with more released in the weeks following. Today email is one of the largest targets for any hacker, so why should organizations use email when unnecessary? The DNC could have used ephemeral messaging to have private and secure conversations – eliminating the possibility of messages being comprised by hackers and in the wrong hands. With an enterprise texting app, information is stored in a secure repository of record instead of on devices or servers, further eliminating the security challenges that unfolded for the DNC.

Keeping Up With Compliance

Security and privacy are not the only requirements at odds. What the business needs or what employees want can be very different than what regulatory and compliance guidelines require. However, the obligation for compliance and record keeping cannot be overlooked. Using an enterprise texting app with the ability to save necessary conversations to a secure repository, while removing data from devices, enables IT teams to answer security and compliance needs at the same time, and provides employees with an easy-to-use app to get business done. Whether for eDiscovery, information access, secure records or information management, communications will be stored in a secure repository of record – not on email servers like in the DNC case – and available for business purposes. Employees and staff can communicate with confidence knowing that information is secure and compliant.

A prime example for use is with healthcare. Medical professionals need the flexibility to communicate quickly to provide effective patient care, especially for those that work offsite, such as home health nurses. What if the nurse needs to quickly check the patient’s records, check in with the doctor or otherwise communicate with staff at the main office? HIPAA standards require that all patient information is dealt with securely and saved to the patient record. By using an enterprise messaging app with secure message retention capabilities, a copy of each text message can be saved in a patient’s electronic health record, supporting HIPPA compliance for a repository of record. The ephemerality of the enterprise texting application ensures security as no data ever lives on the device past the set expiration period.

Business at the Speed of Business – Texting Supports Collaboration

For employees not at their computer, mobile devices become their core connection to clients or other team members. While employees are more focused on getting their jobs done, they often let security take a back seat. If they are texting with a team member using native SMS or a consumer app, whether they work for the company or as part of a contracted team, they can lose control of the data in the message, giving the recipients the ability to forward, copy or otherwise misuse the information at hand adding risk for the company.

The need to support today’s texting culture without making security an extra consideration makes enterprise texting apps an ideal solution as employees and executives embrace bring-your-own-device (BYOD). These apps not only support written communications but also the sharing of documents and photos for true collaboration on the go – critical for your mobile workforce. For example, a contractor may need to take a picture in the field that contains confidential information. With an enterprise messaging app the contractor can send the picture to the project management team of the company who hired him, obscuring the image so that only the recipients can see it. This protects the image from screen shots and unintended propagation, keeping the information private and secure.

Supporting a mobile-centric, text-friendly and secure workplace

Employee affinity towards texting is only going to grow as mobile devices continue to become more of an integral part of every workplace. In fact, according to Gartner, by 2020 85 percent of businesses will have some kind of BYOD or Corporate Owned Privately Enabled (COPE) programs in place. Texting provides employees with an easy and efficient way to read and respond at their fingerprints, anytime, anywhere. In order to keep up with the texting culture employees expect and the business demand for instant communication, organizations need to deploy enterprise texting applications that support increased security and answer strict compliance needs – without leaving information at risk.

Without a secure enterprise texting application in place, organizations leave employees with no choice but to rely on native SMS or consumer-based apps that can leave your enterprise and client data at risk. As organizations are considering new technologies to meet the needs of their mobile workforce, secure ephemeral messaging should be included in the mix.
(Article originally published on Information Security Buzz by Galina Datskovsky, CEO, Vaporstream, October 4, 2016)