MDM and Mobile Security

2 03 2012
by Israel Bryski

BYOD is an oft repeated phrase, a close second after Cloud Computing and consumerization of IT. Over the past 12-18 months there has been a rush by executives and staff to bring their own devices into the corporate enterprise. They want to connect their Android and iOS devices and get rid of the aging Blackberry. When the CEO receives a new iPad for Hanukah or Christmas, they are likely to approach their CIO and ask them to deliver their corporate email, contacts and calendar to their personal devices. Another driving factor for BYOD is the cost savings involved. In a January 2012 article in the Financial Times1, Paul Taylor states, “…these so-called buy (or bring) your own device projects can result in significant savings, improved flexibility and greater employee satisfaction.” The problem is, IT does not have enough time to plan or create a strategy for allowing personally owned devices on the network.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) providers, offer products and services that allow corporate IT to manage the influx of personal devices. MDM products may include remote wipe, remote lock and mobile application management. Managing your mobile devices does not equate to security. While some MDM products include security features, they typically focus on making it easier for IT to manage different mobile platforms. The same holds true for the iOS and Android platforms which offer a set of tools for a basic level of device management. This can include setting password length and complexity, remote wiping using ActiveSync and preventing browsing to blocked categories. This is not a mobile security solution.

In a post on the MaaS360 Blog2, Clint Adams explains the advantage of using MDM is largely around configuration management. When it comes to policy management, OS upgrades and compliance reporting, MDM vendors still have work to do. I believe as time goes on and more enterprises opt to allow employees to bring their own devices, the MDM market segment will further mature. With that maturity, more robust security features allowing companies to prevent data leakage from personal devices will be integrated into a MDM product.

While there are many vendors in the MDM space, very few offer solutions with security in mind. There are a few vendors with products that can be labeled as “disruptive innovation.” Two examples are Mobile Active Defense and AirPatrol. They are taking their technologies on a road show to the RSA Conference3. By integrating their products they are offering a unique solution that enforces security policy based on your device’s location.

When implementing a BYOD strategy, a company needs time to prepare. Key stakeholders should be brought in during the early planning stages. There should be representatives from IT, Security, Legal and Compliance. When a strategy is agreed upon, work to find the right MDM product begins. Are you looking for simple device management, or are you a regulated industry that needs security controls and features? What kind of security features do you need? In a Gartner research note4 released in July 2011, Monica Basso and Phillip Redman review a selection of enterprise MDM providers. After defining your needs and implementing a strategy, you should review Gartner, or another technology research company, before settling on a particular product.

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1 “Bring-your-own-device Projects Cut Costs,” Financial Times, Paul Taylor, January 4th, 2012: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/fd92894c-3658-11e1-a3fa-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1mxdTl1sC : (Account Required)

2M”The Intersection of Mobile Device Management and Security on Smartphones,” MaaS 360 Blog, Clint Adams, December 1, 2012: http://blog.maas360.com/archives/endpointmanagement/the-intersection-of-mobile-device-management-and-security-on-smartphones/

3 “MDM Is Not Security: ‘Disruption’ at the Mobile Security Pavilion and Theater – RSA 2012,” PR Newswire, February 14, 2012: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mdm-is-not-security-disruption-at-the-mobile-security-pavilion-and-theater—rsa-2012-139279773.html

4“ Critical Capabilities for Mobile Device Management,” Gartner, Monica Basso and Phillip Redman, July 29, 2011: http://www.gartner.com/technology/reprints.do?id=1-16U0UOL&ct=110801&st=sg

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