It’s time to end the apathy about mobile device security

“Are false promises from major vendors lulling South Africa’s IT community into apathy about mobile device security?”

September 10, 2012

By William Hardie, Vox Telecom (Enterprise Mobility division)

“Are false promises from major vendors lulling South Africa’s IT community into apathy about mobile device security? There are increasingly worrying signs that this is exactly what may be happening,” says William Hardie, Executive Head of Vox Telecom’s Enterprise Mobility division.

CIOs and IT managers are well aware of the fact that the move towards “bring your own device” environments is radically changing the landscape. Everyone is reading the same articles and everyone says the issue is on their radar – but they’re relying on the mobile device management (MDM) provided by the major players like Microsoft, RIM, Juniper, SAP and all the others.

The problem is, if you’re Microsoft or SAP, mobile device management is not your core competence – and it shows. The MDM offerings currently on the market from the major players are just not in the same league as what’s available from specialists.

Are you prepared to bet the security of your IT environment on a project that’s anything less than the best in its class?

The risks are not small. If I was a hacker with an interest in corporate espionage, I’d be spending a lot of my time right now in airport lounges and restaurants where senior executives hang out. It’s so easy to set up a smartphone as a WiFi hotspot that a lot of people are doing it — with no thought about security. But just one unsecured hotspot could give the hacker high-level access to the entire corporate network.

To complicate things, it’s the most senior employees who are most likely to be bringing in their own devices, against the wishes of the IT department. These are also the people have access to the most sensitive information — how many of them have downloaded board packs to their iPads?

Gartner has specifically warned that hackers are now targeting smartphones and tablets – and traditional security solutions are wholly inadequate to the task of securing them. You need a dedicated mobile device management solution.

There’s no point in waiting for “market consolidation” either – the other line we hear frequently. The truth is, the market is already consolidated and the leaders are clear. A quick comparison of last year’s Gartner Magic Quadrant with this year’s will confirm this.

The real tragedy is that until the mobile device environment is secure, you can’t even begin to explore all the new possibilities this change opens up. There are many wonderful applications out there that can truly increase productivity and competitive advantage – but until you know that cool videoconferencing app for smartphones won’t be exposing your entire network, using it is not worth the risk.