The WhatsApp Dilemma is Keeping IT Executives Up at Night – Here’s What to Do About It

Written by Anurag Lal, President and CEO of NetSfere.

In early February, WhatsApp announced that it has now reached more than 2 billion monthly users worldwide, and this growth in usage should be cause for concern for enterprises. Why? Because employees are increasingly relying on WhatsApp and other consumer-grade messaging apps for business communication, which introduces a host of problems. As the number of employees using WhatsApp continues to grow, so will the security, privacy and compliance risks for the enterprises.

People have become increasingly connected, with worldwide smartphone users currently totaling more than three billion. The ubiquity of smartphones has created a rise in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, which in turn has popularized the use of consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp as a business communication tool. Company policies haven’t evolved along with the BYOD trend, exposing enterprises to security loopholes, regulatory non-compliances and with no administrative controls on their data shared over these communication channels.

The much talked about WhatsApp’s encryption implementation has a big loophole when it comes to data security because the data backups themselves are not encrypted, making all the data vulnerable and therefore exposing the business data to security, privacy and regulatory non-compliance risks. In addition, enterprises have no visibility to these risks and are helpless to act on it. WhatsApp provides no control of any kind to the enterprise including in the addition and deletion of employee users or data, this in itself creates a considerable security risk.

Beyond this, the security loopholes and threats associated with WhatsApp are real and have been widely publicized. A recent Business Insider article noted that “WhatsApp disclosed 12 security vulnerabilities last year, according to the U.S. National Vulnerabilities Database, including seven that were classed as critical.” One of these was a cybersecurity breach discovered last May that left WhatsApp users vulnerable to malicious spyware installed on their smartphones.

There is no doubt that enterprises have a real need for secure mobile messaging platforms. A recent study released by NetSfere in conjunction with 451 Research found that 80% of employee respondents use their smartphones for business purposes on a daily basis. It went on to say nearly half of the IT decision makers surveyed noted that their organizations have a significant number of employees regularly traveling or working remotely.

The shift in how and where work gets done points to a growing need for purpose-built enterprise mobile messaging apps that allow employees to stay securely connected in distributed locations while allowing administrators to monitor and audit usage. The NetSfere/451 Research study underscored the importance of this, cautioning that whether they know it or not, many organizations are playing with fire when they don’t take a comprehensive approach to their business communications and collaboration technology strategy.

Consumer messaging apps like WhatsApp have evolved beyond messaging into communications platforms that enable voice and video calling, access to content and the sharing of content. This makes them all the more appealing to employees as a communication tool. The key to curbing employee reliance on consumer grade messaging apps is to provide them with a tool that offers them the features they want and need for collaboration.

This is where a company-authorized, secure mobile messaging platform like NetSfere can help. NetSfere offers similar functionality to WhatsApp including messaging, voice and video calling, group communications, and encryption. Beyond this it also incorporates capabilities focused on business needs, such as guest access, remote wipe, archiving, collaboration, and centralized administration.

NetSfere’s cloud-based solution helps companies cost-effectively deploy a scalable, secure enterprise messaging app across multiple platforms. This solution brings together the ultimate combination of collaboration, productivity, security and compliance that is unmatched when compared to third-party consumer messaging services.

WhatsApp and other consumer-grade messaging apps remain a real dilemma for the enterprise. The security and privacy risk exposure that is the reality of consumer-grade apps in the enterprise keeps IT decision makers up at night. With WhatsApp considering integrating ads into its platform and the consolidation of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram on the horizon, this risk exposure has the potential to increase to even greater proportions.

NetSfere makes the WhatsApp dilemma a thing of the past for enterprises. IT decision makers can sleep well at night knowing that NetSfere’s reliable, secure mobile messaging solution is enabling a flexible, agile working environment without compromising the security, compliance or reliability of the enterprise IT environment.

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