Security Matters: How to Ensure Your Productivity Apps Are fully Protected

July 18, 2015

10:00 pm

Security is a full-time job, especially in the digital age. While a secure network is a great start, companies large and small often use third-party apps to connect, communicate, and stay productive. For instance, my team utilizes productivity apps on a day-to-day basis to stay organized and get work done, and we have to be on guard to make sure these apps are safe enough for our information.

For instance, Slack recently suffered a huge security breach. Although the company assured users that their passwords were encrypted, many analysts pointed out that encryption only slows down hackers a bit. The real vulnerability in Slack is that the company’s subdomains are searchable via Google, and that allows anyone to find out which companies use the service and even locate individual domains.

Since the breach, Slack has reset passwords and implemented two-factor authentication, but the incident certainly raises some questions about the security of enterprise apps.

What Makes Enterprise Apps Vulnerable?

Everyone is aware of digital security issues, but aside from security-centric companies and major corporations such as Facebook (which has a dedicated team that looks for weaknesses), it seems like many developers simply aren’t focused on doing anything to correct vulnerabilities.

Even if they are, there often is a lack of resources dedicated to this endeavor, meaning things can slip through the cracks. When enterprise-level project management apps are attacked, it can compromise a lot of sensitive company information, including employee logins, trade secrets, and customer data.

Once hackers obtain login information for one app, they can use that to access even more data, including bank accounts, Social Security numbers, and other personal details.

But looking for the safest productivity apps isn’t always as easy as looking at online reviews. There are, however, a few things you can watch out for in order to ensure that your app won’t compromise your proprietary data.

The Ingredients for a Secure Enterprise App

Security is a vital part of every application. Although an encrypted network with a firewall, malware detection, and antivirus software can help keep business information secure, it’s also important to inspect the security of every app utilized by a business.

If you can find these items in the productivity app you’re scrutinizing, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing your company and your employees are safe from hackers:

  • Two-factor authentication: This is an absolute must-have in any enterprise productivity app. Companies such as Google have long implemented this verification method in all apps. If a password is compromised, an authentication code is still necessary to access the account. Many consumer services use smartphones to generate the code, while some enterprise developers require a physical dongle.
  • Nonessential login information: On that note, login information should be the only thing the app asks for in the login form. Generally, this is not an issue. However, the least secure part of the login experience is generally the user.
  • Dedicated security personnel: Facebook, Dropbox, and Trello all have teams devoted to keeping their apps protected. This doesn’t mean only large companies are safe, but it helps to know that an app or service is being constantly updated. Plenty of smaller companies and startups such as HipChat and Atlassian implement security measures. Even Slack is more secure than the average consumer-grade productivity app such as Wunderlist or Things, especially after the breach forced the company to focus on security.

Even personal apps such as password manager LastPass can be vulnerable to threats. This can be a challenge if your employees use them to store their work-related passwords. This doesn’t mean employees should be evaluated for every app they use, however. It’s not a huge concern if a grocery list on Todoist is leaked. The key is to make sure everyone in your company knows the difference between saving sensitive information in consumer apps and using personal apps for their leisure.

Third-party apps increase productivity in the workplace by giving your teammates the ability to streamline how they communicate with colleagues, share documents across your company’s network, and create timelines for projects. The caveat here is that you can’t allow these apps to compromise your company’s security. By looking for an app with these three ingredients, you’ll be well on your way to staying productive and safe.

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Bobby Emamian is the co-founder and CEO of Prolific Interactive, a strategy-led mobile agency headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, with offices in San Francisco. A former college athlete, Bobby’s competitive nature and mix of technical, business, strategic, and managerial skills account for Prolific’s rapid growth in the mobile industry. Bobby and his team have worked with prominent companies, including ModCloth, Threadless, Rent the Runway, Angie’s List, and David’s Bridal.

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