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Smartphones and tablets create huge corporate security challenge

Securing rising number of Apple iPhone and iPad, Google Android devices and others is a big corporate challenge

By , Network World
June 15, 2011 06:08 AM ET

Network World - Adapting security and management for the new generation of mobile devices -- everything from the Apple iPhone and iPad to Google Android devices to name a few -- is turning out to be a huge corporate challenge.

More on mobile security: Smartphones, devices spark IT security melee

"We're struggling to get our arms around it," says Tim Mathias, senior director of IT security at Thomson Reuters, whose 55,000 employees worldwide provide news, business information and technology related to financial, media and healthcare. He adds: "It's a struggle with a technology created for individuals that's ended up being an important tool for the workplace."

The RIM Blackberry, designed for the corporate world, has traditionally been the smartphone that Thomson Reuters gave its employees. But early last year, many were asking if they could use their other devices, primarily the iPhone and Android devices, for work.

Mathias says management decided to say yes.

"We thought it might improve the ability to recruit talent, or lower costs, or help from a morale perspective," Mathias says. One of its corporate divisions launched a pilot to connect iPhone, iPads and Androids up to the corporate email server, with the understanding that any employee using their own device for work would handle their own support issues and not go to IT for assistance, though IT staff did set up a knowledge portal to help them along.

In order to find out what mobile-device management and security systems could be used, another division at Thomson Reuters issued a request-for-information (RFI) to industry. But last year, that division didn't see what it wanted, though it will likely take a fresh look later this year.

Today, several thousand devices, mainly the Apple iPhone and iPad, are syncing up with the corporate e-mail system at Thomson Reuters, Mathias says. Even though the company believes it's going in the right direction with smartphones and tablets, Mathias says the reality is that it's turning out to be a lot harder than what had been the practice of centrally-managing and securing the corporate-owned BlackBerry.

"Today, we have no corporate-wide policy specific to the mobile device," acknowledges Mathias, adding "we do have a code of conduct and business ethics that apply everywhere."

But as the company evolves its security strategy, Mathias says one of the main risks he sees is the downloading of apps, especially for Google Android, since that cybercriminals have been sneaking Trojan-embedded apps into Google marketplace.

Malware apps are also a main source of concern at Troy, Mich.,-based auto-parts manufacturer Inteva Products, where smartphones are part of corporate-issued gear.

Inteva has traditionally issued Blackberries to employees but is starting a migration to Android devices for a variety of reasons, one being that its ERP workflow application is easier to see and use on it, says Dennis Hodges, CIO at Inteva. "We wouldn't have looked at Android if we felt we couldn't have security for it."

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