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Updated: June 2, 2013 10:48 IST

More mobility, but what about security?

SATISH NAIR
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Satish Nair
Satish Nair

With more people using laptops and smartphones, concerns about safety have increased

From banks and cafes to restaurants and bookstores, more and more businesses are offering mobile services.

Tasks which were carried out on desktops earlier are now conducted from mobile devices.

This shift to mobile computing has not only changed the personal life of the user but also his/her professional life.

However, this kind of shift also brings about security concerns. With more people using laptops and smartphones, security concerns have also increased.

All about efficiency

The consumerisation of IT is all about efficiency, but increased efficiency is not without cost. The explosion of mobile devices is continuing at a swift rate, both in developed nations and emerging economies. The use of mobile devices has becoming very common in corporate and enterprise environments, but there are varied risks directed at them. The reason can be that mobile devices contain a wealth of information about the user and the organisation.

For example, the address book in a smartphone or the message inbox may contain vital information about the business. Even the USB cable, used for charging or syncing data, can pose a threat to the enterprise.

The worldwide adoption of mobile devices presents more opportunities for intrusions and theft. According to research firm IDC’s Worldwide Digital Marketplace Model and Forecast, the number of mobile devices, from smartphones to tablet PCs, accessing the Internet by 2013 will surpass 1 billion, creating more opportunities for cyber crime.

A valuable resource

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are gradually turning to tablets and cloud applications as a valuable resource, essential for the on-the-go businessperson. However, the benefits of this increased mobility come with growing risks. Full-time connections via email, VPN and enterprise applications, combined with local storage of data on mobile devices, increase the possibility of exposure of sensitive, confidential and legally protected data. The variety of mobile platforms entering the enterprise network is fast becoming a major security challenge for enterprises. There are many software platforms for smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Google Android phones. Mobile phone users also use Bluetooth headsets, allowing hackers to gain control of the device. Uncontrolled wireless network connections can also lead to unauthorised device access.

Threats

Viruses, Trojan and worms are well-known threats to conventional workstations and laptops. As mobile usage has increased tremendously with both wireless and broadband connectivity, mobile devices have become the latest target of sophisticated malware.

Malware management

A malware management strategy is a critical component in an enterprise mobile-enabled network. The strategy has to be in line with the enterprise-wide strategy and compliant with the information security standards of the organisation so that central business data is not exposed to security risks.

Smartphones and tablets have become tools that should be leveraged for an enterprise business. Many large and SMBs are providing their employees with smartphones and tablets that can increase efficiency and overall revenue. Though this may lift employee productivity, it can also create security challenges for enterprises. A complete solution needs to be put in place which includes training people to use mobile devices securely, extending desktop and laptop security policies to mobile devices and implementing mobile security technology solutions, ranging from developing secure mobile applications to protecting data while in rest or transit.

(The author is Senior Manager, Systems Engineering, F5 Networks India, SAARC.)

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