Ian Kilpatrick, chairman Wick Hill Group, specialists in secure IP infrastructure solutions, looks at the risks involved with mobile devices and how to secure them.
Mobile devices with their large data capacities, always on capabilities, and global communications access, can represent both a business applications’ dream and a business risk nightmare.
For those in the security industry, the focus is mainly on deploying “solutions” to provide protection. However, we are now at one of those key points of change which happen perhaps once in a generation, and that demand a new way of looking at things.
The convergence of communications, mobile devices and applications, high speed wireless, and cloud access at a personal level, are driving functionality demands on businesses at too fast a rate for many organizations. While for some, “lockdown” is an appropriate solution to this burgeoning situation, for others, the legitimate business benefits mean they must learn to live with it and try their best to make it work securely. These demands, coupled with user skills and experience of deploying mobile devices at home, mean that even organizations on “lockdown” can have challenging times dealing with staff “guerrilla” deployments.
Clearly, part of the solution is deploying the right tools to both minimize and report on the risks (e.g. mobile device management, tracking and RF management, authentication, encryption, and behavior management - as well as basic security measures on mobile devices). Solutions are available from a variety of suppliers, including Kaspersky Lab, WatchGuard, Check Point, SafeNet, Becrypt, VASCO and Allot.
However, a much larger and more important component is actually changing the way that we interact with the problem. Currently, many organizations see dealing with these unprecedented risks as a challenge for the IT security team, whose role is to protect the organization. Traditionally, that was a good working model. However, in the new environment, with immense pressure for fast change and fast deployment of new applications, it is not possible for most IT security teams to carry the responsibility of securing the whole business and every user singlehandedly.
Security needs to be the responsibility of every individual user, every manager and every member of the Board. However, this is more typically honored in the breach than in the observance, as evidenced by the fact that only a small number of staff are actually formally sanctioned or sacked for failure to comply.
Mobile security strategy
- Risk analysis and risk acceptance - Before any mobile device, access, application or service is added, it should be signed off as accepted by the Board.
- Planning - Planning for deployment should include security implementation or overt acceptance of the risk.
- Embedding security - Security needs to be deployed with the solution, not post event.
- Policies - Policies need to be clearly enunciated, not just contained in a policy document.
- Processes - Processes need to be clear, as do consequences.
- Education and staff involvement - Staff education is essential and should be ‘education’, not just a list of things staff can’t do. If employees don’t understand why they need to secure their own mobile devices or wireless connections, they certainly aren’t going to be overly concerned about yours.
- Deployment - Deployment of mobile devices, including security elements, needs to be sold to staff i.e. get buy-in from staff that security is a key element of deployment, rather than presenting it as ‘security needs to be there, so live with it.’ Mobile device security and monitoring need to be introduced at the point of deployment. If this is a sign off/buy-in situation, it gets management commitment and cuts negative activities around mobile device usage.
- Monitoring and feedback loop - It is crucial to not only monitor, but also to be seen to be monitoring mobile security measures. High visibility and regular feedback to all staff, on both success and failure, are very important.
- Analysis - The Board needs to have regular reporting of the security landscape, so they are aware of the level of threat, and the levels of risk that they have accepted.
- Forensics - After a breach, particularly for mobile devices, organizations want to understand what has happened, what the failure was and what action they can take. Forensic tools are key to success here, such as those provided by Guidance Software.
Implementing the strategy obviously then involves the deployment of the correct tools and reporting. Clearly this also raises issue of the integration (or replacement) of existing tools with broader management and reporting solutions - but that is a topic for another day!
About the author
Ian Kilpatrick is chairman of international value added distributor Wick Hill Group plc, specialists in market development for secure IP infrastructure solutions. Kilpatrick has been involved with the Group for more than 35 years. Wick Hill supplies organizations from enterprizes to SMEs, through an extensive value-added network of accredited VARs.