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What is App Fatigue and how can it eat away at your IT security?

Living in a modern connected world is difficult enough — then when your employees come to work, they’re bombarded with another set of apps and notifications. Oh my!

The number of apps and web tools that employees like yours use on a regular basis continues to increase. Most teams and departments have about 40-60 different digital tools that they use, and 71% of employees feel they use so many apps now that it actually makes their job more difficult.

Distractions, caused by the very productivity tools you are asking your team to use, can also have a detrimental impact on your team. We get a ping when we receive an email, or a Teams or Slack message, or when a Zoom meeting starts … and those are the ones that people want to attend to. When a notification for an important security update for their important appears, what are your time-stretched employees going to do? Yeah, they’re going to ignore it.

App fatigue is a very real thing and it’s becoming a cybersecurity problem. The more people get overwhelmed by notifications, the more likely they are to ignore them.

Just think about the various digital alerts that you get. They come from:

  • Software apps on your computer like Outlook, Teams, Zoom, Slack…
  • Web-based SaaS tools like Salesforce, Office 365, Zoho, Jira…
  • Websites where you’ve allowed alerts like Facebook, Twitter…
  • Mobile apps and tools (basically anything on your phone, nowadays)
  • Things in emails designed to catch your attention and distract you
  • Text messages, Whatsapp messages, anything where someone’s trying to get hold of you

And some employees are getting the same notification on two different devices — this just adds to the problem, and all of this leads to many issues that impact productivity and cybersecurity.

Besides alert bombardment, every time the boss introduces a new app, that could mean a new password. Employees are already juggling about 191 passwords. They use at least 154 of them sometime during the month!

How Does App Fatigue Put Companies at Risk?

Employees Begin Ignoring Updates

When digital alerts interrupt your work, you can feel like you’re always behind. This leads to ignoring small tasks seen as not time-sensitive. Tasks like clicking to install an app update.

Employees overwhelmed with too many app alerts, tend to ignore them. When updates come up, they may quickly click them away. They feel they can’t spare the time right now and aren’t sure how long it will take.

Ignoring app updates on a device is dangerous. Many of those updates include important security patches for found vulnerabilities. When they’re not installed, the device and its network are at a higher risk. It becomes easier to suffer a successful cyberattack.

Automatic — or, even better, fully-managed app updates — are the solution to this.

Employees Reuse Passwords (and They’re Often Weak)

Another security casualty of app fatigue is password security. The more SaaS accounts someone must create, the more likely they are to reuse passwords. It’s estimated that passwords are typically reused 64% of the time.

Credential breach is a key driver of cloud data breaches. Hackers can easily crack weak passwords. The same password used several times leaves many accounts at risk (this is called a Credential Stuffing attack).

A good password policy, and education on how to use a password management tool, is the key to fixing this.

Employees May Turn Off Alerts

Some alerts are okay to turn off. For example, do you really need to know every time someone responds to a group thread? Or just when they @name you? But, turning off important security alerts is not good.

There comes a breaking point when one more push notification can push someone over the edge. They may turn off all the alerts they can across all apps. The problem with this is that in the mix of alerts are important ones. Such as an anti-malware app warning about a newly found virus.

If your apps are updated automatically or by a managed service provider, this problem goes away.

What’s the Answer to App Fatigue?

It’s not realistic to just go backward in time before all these apps were around. As well as the above points, you can put a strategy in place that puts people in charge of their tech, and not the other way around.

Streamline Your Business Applications

From both a productivity and security standpoint, fewer apps (from fewer vendors) are better. The fewer apps you have, the less risk. Also, the fewer passwords to remember and notifications to address.

Look at the tools that you use to see where redundancies may be. Many companies are using two or more apps that can do the same function.

Consider using an umbrella platform like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. These platforms include several work tools, but users only need a single login to access them. And you can introduce features like Single Sign-On for your other cloud apps like Salesforce: let Office 365 handle the username and password (and therefore the login security) element and let your CRM do what they’re good at.

Use a Managed Services & Security Provider

It’s difficult for users to know what types of notifications are the most important, which is why they ignore them and turn them off. Use a Managed Services & Security Provider, like Stratum Now, to scan for app updates, apply them with a policy, and then perform vulnerability scanning to find the apps that are left behind — this gives you total visibility of stale apps and provides a way to update them quickly and easily within your business.

Automate Application Updates

If you’re not enlisting the help of a Managed Services & Security Provider, a cybersecurity best practice is to automate device and software updates. This takes the process out of employees’ hands, and enhances productivity by removing unnecessary updates from their view.

Automating device updates through a managed services solution improves security. It also mitigates the chance there will be a vulnerable app putting your network at risk.

Open a Two-Way Communication About Notification Fatigue

Employees may never turn off an alert because they’re afraid they might get in trouble. Managers may not even realise constant app alert interruptions are hurting productivity. By opening a dialogue with your team, you may find that there’s quick wins you can ask your MSSP to automate or put in place for you – or you can take all of your concerns to them and ask them to fix them for you!

Communicate with employees and let them know they can communicate with you. Discuss how to use alerts effectively. As well as the best ways to manage alerts for a better and more productive workday.

Need Help Taming Your Cloud App Environment?

Today, it’s easy for cloud tools to get out of hand. Get some help consolidating and optimising your cloud app environment. Talk to us at Stratum Now today about reducing app notification fatigue, improving security, and streamlining your teams’ workspaces!


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This Article has been adapted from an article with Permission from The Technology Press.

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