Tame the challenge of mobile device management

Does your organization allow employees to access company resources such as email or other applications via mobile devices? Over the past year, much has been written about mobile device security and management. We'll summarize some of the top thoughts here to make your research a little easier.

Does your organization allow employees to access company resources such as email or other applications via mobile devices? If so, then you owe it to your employer to learn how to secure these devices and, more importantly, the corporate assets they access.

Last week we pointed you to a really good report, "A Window into Mobile Device Security," from Carey Nachenberg, VP and fellow at Symantec Corporation. Nachenberg describes the native security capabilities of two of the top mobile operating systems: iOS from Apple and Google's Android. The Symantec report looks at how these OSs compare with regards to five pillars of security: traditional access control, application provenance, encryption, isolation, and permission-based access control.

REPORT: How to get a handle on mobile device management

Though these mobile operating systems were designed with security in mind, the native security is far from sufficient for enterprise use. Ideally you will want to implement supplemental controls to mitigate the risks to your company network, applications and data.

Over the past year, we and other Network World contributors have written numerous articles about mobile device security. We'll summarize some of the top thoughts here to make your research on the topic a little easier.

For a list of the best practices for mobile device management, see our articles on "Best practices for managing smartphones" and "Advanced best practices for managing smartphones." These articles cover the general security and management requirements that all businesses should put in place, as well as more advanced techniques for organizations that provide more than simple access to enterprise email. For more advice from technology leaders at Fiberlink Communications, read "How to manage consumer devices on your network."

For a comprehensive primer on mobile management technologies and a comparison of some of the leading products, check out "How to Protect Smartphones and Tablets" by Tom Henderson and Brendan Allen of ExtremeLabs. They did thorough hands-on tests of McAfee's Enterprise Mobility Management, Tangoe MDM, MaaS360 by Fiberlink and Sybase Afaria. Their report covers everything from what clients need to be installed on the devices to what kinds of reports you can get from these mobile management systems.

Henderson and Allen contacted a range of vendors and asked them to participate, but not many responded to the request. So, companies with mobile device management offerings that didn't make it into the review include Good Technology, MobileIron, AirWatch, BoxTone and Zenprise. If you want to know about their product offerings, contact those vendors directly.

In terms of really locking down your mobile devices tightly -- as in, they are no longer consumer-class devices -- check out Mobile Active Defense (M.A.D.). We covered them a few months ago in "Lock down your mobile handheld devices for ultimate security." More so than most other vendors of mobile management solutions, M.A.D. has taken the traditional capabilities for security and compliance from the stationary enterprise (i.e., the desktop world), added mobility and geolocation capabilities, and came up with a solution that effectively offers the same level of security and compliance for the mobile enterprise as you have with your fixed enterprise. M.A.D. does not use MDM, the native device management capabilities that are built into operating systems like iOS and Android. M.A.D. views MDM as inherently weak and instead enforces its security via an always-on VPN, a certificate authority and enforcement policy.

While the approaches and products for mobile device management vary widely, one thing is clear: The need for these tools is increasing exponentially. Google says it is activating a half million devices a month. Apple has already pumped almost 100 million devices into the market, as has Research in Motion. People aren't buying these devices just to make phone calls, so it's wise to have a plan for handling their access to corporate networks.

Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation. You can write to her at LMusthaler@essential-iws.com.


About Essential Solutions Corp:

Essential Solutions researches the practical value of information technology, and how it can make individual workers and entire organizations more productive. Essential Solutions offers consulting services to computer industry and corporate clients to help define and fulfill the potential of IT.

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