Mobile technology does not need to be a security nightmare for CIOs

The era of mobile computing has arrived, bringing with it a number of information security risks that companies must carefully manage as end-users do more of their work from outside the corporate firewall.

May 22, 2012

The era of mobile computing has arrived, bringing with it a number of information security risks that companies must carefully manage as end-users do more of their work from outside the corporate firewall.

That’s according to Robyn Milham, Head of Sales for Southern Africa at Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry® solution.

Milham says that massive coverage of the country by high-speed cellular networks, falling mobile data costs, smartphones and tablets that offer as much performance punch and usability as desktop computers have all helped to make the mobile workforce a reality.

Along with the many business benefits that companies can achieve by giving workers the tools to do their jobs while they’re out of the office, organisations also face a number of new information security risks.

When workers mostly worked from within the walls of the organisation, it was relatively easy for IT managers to secure networks and devices. By contrast, end-users today walk around with mobile devices in their pockets and briefcases that can store reams of sensitive data and be used to access network resources from nearly anywhere in the world.

“Mobility can turn into a security nightmare for organisations that don’t have the right technology and processes in place to protect the information stored on and transmitted from mobile devices, from dangers such as malware and theft,” says Milham.

The business risks of an unsecured device falling into the wrong hands can be enormous. They include public embarrassment and bad press; theft of sensitive financial and customer data or intellectual property, legal trouble and strained relationships with customers.

“Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, can be easily lost or stolen since they are small and portable,” she adds. “Ensuring that unauthorised users cannot access the data the device stores or use it to access corporate network resources is perhaps the single biggest priority for mobile security.”

Milham says that a platform that allows companies to centrally set, manage and enforce security policies for mobile devices is essential to safeguard corporate information.

“Since most organisations are managing a mix of mobile devices as a result of an increasingly mobile workforce and consumerisation of IT, companies need to start to invest in cross-platform mobile device management (MDM) solutions,” says Milham. “RIM has introduced BlackBerry® Mobile Fusion, our next-generation enterprise mobility solution, to address this need.”

BlackBerry Mobile Fusion provides a single unified console for easily managing BlackBerry® smartphones, BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet, and devices using Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems. It integrates the market-leading features and security architecture of BlackBerry® Enterprise Server (version 5.0.3), providing advanced IT management and controls, a single outbound security connection (256-bit AES encrypted “BlackBerry VPN”), enforceable IT policies, support for BlackBerry® Balance technology, and over-the-air app and software installation capabilities for the management of BlackBerry smartphones and PlayBook tablets.

“BlackBerry Balance answers to the reality that many users will want to use the same device for personal and work tasks,” says Milham. “It allows employees to carry one device for both work and personal use and view both work and personal information in an integrated way while keeping the content separate and secure.”

In addition to the management platform, BlackBerry smartphones have a range of security features built into their hardware and software. The BlackBerry device has a built-in firewall to prevent unauthorised connections and filter inbound traffic.

“BlackBerry customers can also extend their secure BlackBerry Enterprise Server environments to the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet and allow their employees to access corporate information in a secure way,” says Milham.

The BlackBerry PlayBook allows organisations to leverage the security inherent in the BlackBerry solution because the operating system is designed from the ground up to be resilient and secure. The BlackBerry PlayBook can be configured to authenticate with VPN connectors to access information behind the firewall. It is the first tablet to achieve FIPS 140-2 certification, making it trusted by governments and other organisations for which security is paramount.

“An increasing proportion of end-users now access sensitive business information and mission-critical applications using devices such as tablets and smartphones,” concludes Milham. “This allows them to be productive and effective wherever they are, but it also exposes the enterprise network to a range of new security risks. However, these risks can be managed with the right solution so that companies can enjoy the benefits of mobility without compromising on security.”