October 9, 2010    /    by

Mobile Device Management - More Smartphones Mean More Questions for CxOs

What is clear is that the battle for mobile apps is heating up, and the mobile OS space has moved up to become a core issue for CxOs over the next few years.

Microsoft is set to launch new devices running their Windows Phone 7 (WP7) operating system (OS) on Monday. While this is being labeled by industry experts as a vital new offering from Microsoft, new questions continue to arise for global enterprises. What mobile platforms should be allowed? Should standards be set to limit user choices or should customers be able to choose an iPhone, Blackberry, Droid or any other mobile device? The “cool factor” and business benefit may be real, but what are the hidden costs?

What is clear is that the battle for mobile apps is heating up, and the mobile OS space has moved up to become a core issue for CxOs over the next few years (along with cloud computing, identity management, data analytics, virtualization and a few other hot topics). Not only are the stakes very high, the issues are complex for government infrastructures.

Nevertheless, most companies and governments are gearing up to support multiple smartphones, according to a Network World article that acknowledges the headaches it will cause. According to the article:

“A recent Forrester survey shows that businesses are already revising their client computing strategies to incorporate smartphones from multiple vendors. One reason is that it's easier to attract top employees if you let them use their favorite smartphones for business and personal use. And while that strategy may work for the front office, it's a challenge for IT staffers who must keep up on security threats on multiple OS platforms.”

 So what are the headaches? This InformationWeek article lays out many of the Mobile Device Management (MDM) issues that must be addressed. It all starts with the policy, and a few of the items that need to be included are:

·     “Remote wipe/remote reset

·     Hardware control: Include camera on/off, Bluetooth on/off, Wi-Fi associations to certain SSIDs only, and access to internal or external storage

·     Mandatory authentication methods for gaining user interface access

·     At-rest encryption: Whole disk or file-by-file

·     Firewalls: Protection from unwanted inbound IP connections to the device via the Wi-Fi or 3G/4G radios

·     Anti-malware: Protection from malicious software code for operating system components or files that make their way onto the device, such as via e-mail”

I recently told a group of internal staff members to begin thinking of mobile devices the same way that they think about laptops. That is, what are the risks for our teleworkers and/or laptop users (including offsite at hotels and restaurants) in the enterprise today? Sure, there are real differences, but we have the same risks such as malware, acceptable use for websites visited, protecting information and identity management issues in both places. The truth is that laptops are getting smaller and lighter (becoming netbooks) and smartphones can do many more things. This trend will only continue.

This National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) Research Brief is a great place to start in learning more on the topic of “Security at the Edge.”