Challenges Aplenty as IT Struggles with Mobility

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Security Vulnerabilities at All-time Highs for Mobile Devices

Mobile security recommendations for consumers and administrators.

The proliferation of smartphones is changing IT's mandate right down to the roots. To a great extent, the devices in use are beyond the direct control of IT departments simply because employees are bringing them to work. That isn't always the case, however. IT departments in companies that still distribute devices to employees must choose which are to be used.


Choosing the right mobile device, of course, is a far more involved process than back in the day, or days: In the desktop and early smartphone eras Microsoft Windows and Research In Motion's BlackBerry, respectively, were the automatic choices.


There are no automatic choices today. Processor has a nice article outlining what IT departments and other planners should look for in a device. It's a tricky business, since the capabilities and limitations of the gadget the employee holds in his or her hand is only a portion of what is important in the choice - though the device itself is of course vital.


Processor suggests users identify a preferred operating system and a carrier; determine what hardware features are necessary; compare available and pre-installed apps between candidate devices; assess available security for the device; ensure that the phone supports IM; lean toward systems that are similar to what the organization already has deployed; and negotiate with as many carriers as possible whose phones support all or most of the other requirements.


But, in more and more cases, the decision on which devices and networks will be used won't be entirely - or in some cases, even partially - up to the organization. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) will drive a couple of trends that already are apparent.


At the highest level, Telecom Expense Management (TEM) focuses on helping businesses save money by finding the right wireless plan. To do this effectively, however, it quickly considers all the issues brought up in the Processor piece, and then some. TEMIA - the Telecom Expense Management Industry Association - is planning a meeting for early next month in Boston.


The reality is that organizations - especially small- and medium-size businesses - no longer can manage their wireless alone. There is a lot of money to be made in helping enterprises navigate the new reality of a heterogeneous smartphone environment. The uncertainty of what devices employees are using and the differences in how they operate (even if they are known) lead to a simple conclusion: The focal point of management and security must exit the device and enter the network.


Mobile device management and related products and services are emerging quickly. Computerworld reported last week on announcements along these lines by Verizon Wireless and AT&T. Sprint announced its own cross-carrier service last month. Other companies have entered the sector as well.

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Oct 17, 2011 4:27 AM Spencer Parkinson Spencer Parkinson  says:

Well put, Carl. Although I would suggest that the ideal situation when it comes to mobile security and management is actually a holistic approach. Such an approach includes security and management strategies and solutions in place on both the SMB side of the fence (or enterprise for that matter)-where data is used, created and stored-and also on the telecommunication service provider side -  where the devices connect and communicate with corporate backends; not just one or the other. Each side requires a unique set of tools to effectively mitigate the risk these devices create and help them reach their full potential in the corporate environment. That's the stance of Symantec, the company I work for.

Spencer Parkinson



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