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10 Tips For Protecting Mobile Users

Mobile employees, devices, and data need protecting. Here are 10 tips to make it happen.

Device Management

Mobile device management is no longer a nice-to-have option. But vendor buzz about mobile and bring-your-own-device policies makes it hard for IT to separate the information from the noise. Farpoint now tracks more than 100 MDM products, up from 40 last year, Mathias says. The most important thing to look for in MDM is a scope of function that supports mobile policies and some form of consolidation with other IT management tools and dashboards, he says.

Another factor in deciding how to enforce policy across the mobile infrastructure is figuring out how heavy-handed the organization should be with intrusive agents or other controls on employee-owned devices.

TIP 6: Minimize Legal Risks Around BYOD Management
"Expectations of privacy in this context may be higher because a personal device is at issue, and this should be taken into account by companies considering a BYOD strategy and informing their employees of privacy-related issues."
--David Navetta, founding partner, Information Law Group

Unisys's Frymier uses an MDM tool on corporate-owned devices to perform tasks such as enforcing two-factor authentication, enabling remote wipe, and conducting inventory and asset management. But for BYOD users, Unisys depends on Microsoft's ActiveSync. "We can assert policies through the ActiveSync server, and that includes remote wipe, local storage encryption, and forcing authentication through the use of a digital certificate," he says.

Doing so protects the business without BYOD users feeling like their employer is snooping into their personal data. This is a very real concern, and it's one reason some organizations consider using mobile virtualization and sandboxing techniques to separate business information flows from personal information stored on mobile devices.

Meanwhile, even with the flood of smartphones and tablets into the enterprise, laptops remain the fundamental tool that most road warriors depend on. CISOs shouldn't let the mobility noise distract them from core activities such as patch management, vulnerability management, and maintenance of client-based anti-malware, Frymier says.

Controlling Connectivity

TIP 7: Consider Sandboxing To Separate Personal And Business Data On Devices
"BYOD fundamentally means that there is a personal component to the device and there is a corporate component. These have to be kept separate and isolated in each instance. The personal has to be kept private while the corporate kept secure."
--Purnima Padmanabhan, COO, MokaFive

Much of the mobile security discussion is focused on devices. But Wi-Fi represents a significant vulnerability. When it comes to the corporate network, the WLAN should be designed so that vulnerable Wi-Fi connections can't be easily parlayed by hackers into beachheads for deeper penetration into more sensitive areas of the network.

"You've got to get used to this world in which there are no secure external perimeters," says Frymier. "You need a bunch of secure internal perimeters now."

Public hotspots, the innumerable hotels, coffee shops, and other locations that employees link to, also present a risk. Constant connectivity is a must-have for road warriors, so forbidding connections to public access points will bring work to a screeching halt. "As a road warrior myself, I can tell you that finding 'safe' havens for Wi-Fi is a challenge. But you can't rely on local infrastructure, otherwise you will become a modern-day hermit," says Kapil Raina, director of product marketing at Web security firm Zscaler.

That's why companies must develop acceptable-use policies, provide VPN technology, and demand that users connect through these secure tunnels to strike a reasonable balance between wireless ubiquity and secure connectivity.

TIP 8: Consider Building An Enterprise App Store
"The primary aim is to provide a controlled distribution environment for both internal and external apps. One of the benefits is that an app store allows IT to configure and customize app views and access based on roles, hierarchies, groups, and departments."
--Vishal Jain, mobile services analyst, 451 Research

Application Controls

While mobile malware isn't anywhere near as big a problem as malicious software on PCs, it's out there, and attackers can leverage their exploits of mobile vulnerabilities into attacks on the networks that those devices connect to.

Combine mobile malware with the increased potential for data theft or loss through mobile apps that store sensitive data on devices or in unauthorized public cloud services, and it's clear that app management may become as important as device management for addressing mobility and BYOD initiatives.

"Employees don't think in terms of 'mobile,' 'on premises,' 'cloud,' 'browser-based,' etc.," says John Juris, director of product management at Flexera Software, a provider of application usage management software. "They just want their data, and they want their apps on the devices they happen to be using."

TIP 9: Provide Cloud Sharing Alternatives
"The primary aim is to provide a controlled distribution environment for both internal and external apps. One of the benefits is that an app store allows IT to configure and customize app views and access based on roles, hierarchies, groups, and departments."
--Howard Creed, solutions consultant, MCPc

Companies should consider building enterprise application stores as a way to improve distribution of both corporate custom apps and sanctioned consumer apps that can help users conduct business on mobile devices.

Businesses should also consider finding (or building, if you have the chops, the money, and the management resources) a cloud-based storage and file synchronization service that has controls that meet IT's security requirements and features that users can live with. Mobile users want to put data in a place where they can access it from any device, and they'll find a service whether IT likes it or not. By providing an alternative, and promoting it via an enterprise app store, companies may save themselves headaches in the long run.

Meanwhile, Creed, the MCPc solutions consultant, recommends that IT consider a more ambitious goal: to build end-to-end file security from your corporate data stores, cloud-based data stores, and mobile device data stores--essentially an internal ecosystem for sensitive mobile data processing.

TIP 10: Inform Users About Mobile Risks
"Part and parcel with coming up with mobile policies is also working with the end users to promote awareness and train them on those policies."
--Howard Creed

Tying It All Together

With so many moving parts, it's easy to see why IT groups are struggling to integrate mobile security into the overall IT security framework. Such integration requires expertise, money, and time to strategize, develop policies, and implement infrastructure and procedures to enforce those policies.

The added expense for full-fledged mo-bile security has to be table stakes for IT innovation. And as companies put technology and procedures in place, they must keep in mind one of the most important and oft-forgotten factors in mobile security: user ignorance.

To avoid wasting mobile security dollars, businesses should set aside the necessary dollars to incorporate mobile security awareness into IT security training to keep users from making mistakes that put business data at risk.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

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