Posted on 20th November 2017
by Dan Sims
The age of the mobile workforce has more opportunities – but also more risk

In-depth knowledge and robust IT systems are required to protect corporate assets

  • Mobile devices enable opportunities, but also increase the risk of hacking, theft and accidental loss of business data
  • Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) allows security requirements to be balanced with ease of use
  • EMM is not a plug-in solution; it needs to be understood and managed
  • Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) enables all devices that connect to corporate data to be secured

Referring to the ‘mobile generation’ usually conjures up an image of younger people, permanently plugged in to their smartphones, which they use for every facet of their personal and professional lives.

But the need and desire to stay connected applies to most of us, we are now used to having our own personal device rarely further than an arm’s reach away at any time during the day and night.

Checking emails during the commute to the office, keeping in touch with colleagues throughout the day as we or they are out at meetings, watching episodes of a favourite TV show or catching up on social media on the way home, logging in to the corporate network in the evening to complete a piece of work; all of these activities - enabled by mobile devices – have become the norm.

The always-on, always-connected world has blurred the lines between our personal and work lives. Consumer-led mobile technology in the workplace is here to stay. And with that the door to corporate risk has been firmly cranked open.

Mobile benefits
Rather than being daunted by the mobile proposition, it’s important to remember the benefits on offer.

Mobile gives immediate access to information that potentially plays a key role in meetings and interactions, thereby developing the all-important customer relationship and fuelling growth. It also offers flexibility about where people work, whether that’s at home one day a week, or remotely at the other side of the world; this is critical when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent, as well as helping teams to be efficient and productive – another growth driver.

But data that is no longer contained within the perimeter of an organisation’s IT system is at risk from hacking, theft or accidental loss and that is particularly bad news for the financial services sector where adhering to regulatory compliance around these issues is business critical.

Managing mobile risks
Organisations – and their IT departments – need to find the right balance between making enterprise systems easy for the right people to access on approved mobile devices, but highly secure so that data does not fall into the wrong hands.

Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), which has its roots in the more familiar Mobile Device Management (MDM), holds the key to achieving acceptable levels of risk while allowing people to access corporate data outside the traditional office environment.

Selecting the EMM tools that meet expectations and deliver on the specific needs of the organisation requires careful consideration of core points including:

1. Don’t assume complete lockdown is the safest option; it can force users down unauthorised routes
It’s important to understand, and agree on, the level of security that is right for each individual enterprise. One hundred percent lockdown looks watertight on paper and may feel ‘safe’, but it’s not practical because it is difficult to use. And if workers can’t easily perform activities that help them do their jobs, they’ll look for other, unauthorised, ways to undertake them – which immediately multiples risk.

2. Decide whether devices used should be personal, corporate or a hybrid
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) allows people to use the mobile device with which they feel most comfortable, but it’s risky. Take for example the common situation where additional information is required during a client meeting. It’s sent from the office by email and easily accessible via mobile – but is potentially unencrypted and without an audit trail.

Moving up the security-focus scale, other options are to provide employees with a Corporately Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) device, or to adopt the most tightly managed option with COBO – Corporately Owned, Business Only.

3. Protect business data by isolating it from personal data
Whatever the mobile corporate policy adopted, securing the information devices is best done via ‘containerisation’. Very simply, ‘containers’ act as boundaries that isolate business data from personal data, with the former only accessible through a further layer of encryption, such as a second password, or PIN or fingerprint.

Protecting corporate data in this fashion also allows rules on how it is handled to be set, so that files on the network can be viewed through an app, but not copied onto a personal device or email, for example. If the device is lost or stolen, the container can be wiped remotely so business information is not compromised.

4. Ensure that all connected devices are secured and compliant
Very few people have just one device. While they use a mobile and tablet for everyday excursions from the office, they may also access a laptop for working away and a desktop computer when they are in the office.

But it doesn’t stop there. The focus on connectivity means that items such as printers and wearables need to be factored into the security / risk / accessibility equation.

Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) is the next generation of device management. It envelops the above touchpoints into offerings that enable IT security activity such as patching, application deployment and the ability to set security policies and configure settings across all devices that connect to corporate data – all of which can be carried out remotely.

Lanware and VMware: balancing risk with opportunity
EMM is a dynamic market with a confusing array of products on offer.

Lanware’s role is to help financial services organisations to thrive (rather than merely survive) in this adjusted landscape that requires new business rules. We work with VMWare, whose UEM product, AirWatch, is identified as the market leader in Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant.

To find out how we can help your business balance risk with opportunity contact us