HEAT Security Blog

Resist Enterprise Mobility? Another Knee Jerk Reaction

I have logged more travel miles than I care to admit in 2011. Throughout it all, I heard significant trepidation from IT security directors and CISO’s over the invasion of their offices with those nasty, uncontrollable personal digital devices that everyone is now armed with: iPhones, Android devices, and iPads.  Especially iPads.  And invariably the worst offenders are the business leaders.  “They have to have the latest toy, and their first request is to get access to corporate email and servers” complained an old friend who today heads up security for a large defense contractor.

This anxiety isn’t surprising. In fact, I have seen this movie before and I can tell you the ending- you will allow these devices on your network and you will do so in a safe and secure way. 

The first time I encountered a knee-jerk reaction to new technology was in 1994 when I was visiting one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. I met with a VP of engineering who I was trying to convince that the Internet was going to become critical to their way of doing business.  I showed him my newly printed business card with my email address on it and he said, “I will NEVER need an email address.” He went on to say that his company would never need a full T1 of Internet access either. Laughable, right? 

Another more recent example came when I visited the campus of Palm Computing.  The IT administrator there told me they had banned WiFi because it was insecure. The trouble was the executives were buying access points from FRY’s and putting them on the network.

This story has played out over and over.  Email, web browsing, WiFi, social networking, USB devices… all have been banned initially, all have made their way into the enterprise and all are now considered indispensable contributors to organizational productivity.

So why resist?
In less than two years everyone will support mobile devices.  A highly secure environment – a bank, trading desk, military contractor – might purchase and provision iPads for key employees. Most organizations will invest in and deploy Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions. They will be able to lock those devices down, control what networks they can access, use VPNs for remote access, and will encrypt company data on those devices.  Enrollment will be automated and new devices never seen before will be accommodated. 

Everything is not yet in place to make MDM ubiquitous and easy today. But the major devices are covered.  iPads, Blackberrys, and Android are already manageable.  Kindles, Nooks, and the dozens of devices soon to be unleashed on the enterprise will be incorporated soon. 

So what should you do?
The key point in my first blog post on MDM in the enterprise is to first acknowledge that the management of personal mobile devices on the network is inevitable. Next, you must start planning for that investment.  As you prepare for this shift, make sure you identify the opportunities to the business. Don’t couch your budget request in terms of “mobile devices are adding overhead.”  Instead, explain “by enabling a secure mobile device strategy, IT is enhancing business functionality.” 

So get with the program; be a cheerleader. By being proactive you will not be chasing your tail next year at this time.  Go with the unrelenting flow of technology, connectivity, and mobility.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. My next post will explore realistic steps on implementing a secure MDM strategy.

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