Why Your Company’s Mobile Device Management Strategy Should Focus on Data First and Devices Second

We talk a lot about data around here, and for good reason. We’re a data hosting company. Data storage, management, monitoring and fast and reliable access is what we do. If you want your data stored in a colocation facility with state-of-the-art hardware and HVAC controls that’s staffed by highly qualified data operators, you know to turn to Superb. If you need your website hosted in the cloud where it’ll be safe, available and scalable whenever you need it to be, you know to turn to Superb. Basically if you need a data solution, you need us.

Point being, we’re almost always thinking about data first at Superb – but not everyone does. What are we talking about? Let’s go back to a long time ago in an office setting far, far away. Well, actually, let’s not go back that long or search that far, at all. Let’s think about how things used to be in your office just several years back. As Tech Target alludes, it was then and there that users had a somewhat different workspace setup than they likely have today. Heck, the whole office was probably different, and so was out-of-office work and communications. Things were just…different back then, remember?

Everybody probably had a desktop computer at their workstation, for starters. On top of that, maybe some key personnel had a bulky laptop that they would lug around to sales calls, conventions and maybe even a meeting or two here and there. And if you were really on top of your game you even had a BlackBerry to help you check your email on the road or at home. How novel!

BYOD

Things are a bit different today. All right, we lied: they’re a lot different. Slowly, more and more organizations began handing out laptops to all or most employees either in lieu of or in addition to desktops. Then things changed again, and an increasing percentage of professionals began receiving tablets and smartphones from their employers. And then things changed again. Many professionals who weren’t getting those kinds of devices from their employers began bringing their own to work and/or using them from home and/or on the road. This movement is known as “bring your own device (BYOD) and the result is that today’s office workers are doing their work across a pile of different devices that all have access to the same cloud data.

In a way, this has been great for employers. “My staff is going to buy their own high-tech devices and use them to do work both in and out of the office? Fantastic! Productivity is going to skyrocket, and it’s not going to cost me a dime!” It all happened so suddenly, too. Again, it was not that long ago that the desktop in a cubicle was the be-all, end-all device for getting work done. Then iOS and Droid happened, and the swiftness at which professionals adopted new devices and began using them for work was blink-and-you-missed-it fast.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to all these changes. Mobile device security has lagged way behind the warp-speed movement of mobile device technology and adoption. In the beginning, there weren’t too many security concerns for smartphones and tablets, but as they have grown so have the threats inherent in using them. Today, they have many of the same security vulnerabilities as desktops and laptops. Things are made worse by the fact that these devices don’t usually come with built-in security software. In fact, Venture Beat reports that an Avast Antivirus study found that only 14 percent of Americans have installed antivirus software on their phones. Fourteen percent!

Worse yet, many professionals sell off their older mobile devices when they upgrade to new ones. Some of them don’t bother deleting information off of them at all, but even those who do aren’t necessarily being thorough enough with the process.

“Selling your used phone is a good way to make a little extra money, but it’s a bad way to protect your privacy,” Jude McColgan, the president of mobile at Avast told Venture Beat. To prove this point, Avast bought up 20 used devices that had supposedly been wiped clean off of eBay and got to work hacking them. They were able to restore 40,000 photos, 750 emails and texts and 250 names and addresses. They were even able to find the previous owners on Facebook and track their whereabouts thanks to GPS history. Yikes.

Worse yet, while the desktops and laptops on your network are likely using host-based firewalls and intrusion detection systems, those BYOD mobile devices aren’t. In order to cut down on the risk this presents, organizations need to institute mobile device management (MDM) strategies. These strategies ensure that appropriate third-party security controls are added to employees’ mobile devices.

MDM Software

The security control measure of choice for mobile devices is MDM software, and you can’t afford to not consider it when you’re developing your MDM strategy. It’s able to provide centralized management of mobile device security, the kind that’s capable of protecting sensitive data that can be stored on and accessed by a phone or tablet. All of the standard operating system security controls like configuring the OS securely and installing patches are covered by this type of software.

But it doesn’t stop there. It also provides you with crucial data security controls such as storage encryption and device control and data loss prevention. This kind of software has traditionally been most suitable for hardware supplied by businesses to its employees, but it can absolutely have its uses when it comes to BYOD applications.

It’s the Data, Stupid!

Sorry, we’re not really calling you names. We just had a bit of a ‘90s James Carville flashback there. Anyways, getting back on topic, many organizations have gotten pretty good at securing mobile devices thanks to MDM software. However, data has become increasingly valuable, particularly anything personal, medical or financial in nature. This has enticed hackers to move away from attacking mobile device operating systems and towards harvesting data. You can’t afford even one data breach, but you could be faced with one if an employee-owned device is lost or stolen.

The best defense is to think long and hard about where your data lives and how safe it is there. If it’s stored at a Superb data center, for example, then you can rest easy knowing that it’s safe. Also, some mobile operating systems are finally beginning to provide media encryption. Furthermore, both encryption and DLP technology is available through MDM technologies.

Don’t Mix Sensitive Data with BYOD

Here’s another free data pointer: don’t put anything that sensitive on mobile devices. It can be tempting to give BYOD users access to literally everything so that they can do, well, everything whenever they want. Doing so, however, means making a security compromise that no organization should make. Keep your sensitive data stored centrally and allow access only to absolutely necessary chunks of it from mobile devices. Doing so minimizes the risk associated with any potential device breach.

Block Web-Based Malware

Web security gateways have traditionally been relied on to put the kibosh on web-based malware, but they’re not as effective when it comes to mobile because those devices are often connected to external networks and aren’t using the gateways. The solution? Either put web security controls on your mobile devices, most likely through an MDM strategy, or force all mobile devices to route traffic through a centralized proxy that includes network security controls like gateways. The latter is most effective, but it is also the most costly and will result in a serious performance hit.

The bottom line? Get an MDM strategy and protect your data from BYOD breaches!

Image Source: True Wireless Inc.

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