With rising popularity of smartphones and BYOD becoming the norm, the prospect of people storing sensitive work-related documents and corporate data on mobile devices has become a challenge of sorts.
This challenge needs to be addressed on a war-footing. IT departments across some enterprises have responded by clamping down on the trend, with some of them banning devices with popular cloud storage products. However, it is the mobility and productivity offered by these very cloud products that make the smartphones so attractive to businesses.
For IT departments, the prospect of loss of control over sensitive corporate data and documents and introduction of malware through employees' mobile devices is more threatening. The concerns are as much about the technical issues of security as well with the legal issues surrounding data privacy.
The problem will only get worse, with a recent Gartner study forecasting a healthy growth in smartphone and media tablet shipments over the next five years, leading to a much higher level of consumerization of technology. Gartner says that enterprises, especially in the non-BRIC countries, would need to improve their IT architecture to allow for the deployment of mobile devices.
IT units can tackle the BYOD security issue is by leveraging mobile data protection (MDP), network access control (NAC) and mobile device management (MDM) tools. The departments can shape their mobile policies to exercise better control over the new devices coming into the network. Mobile policies can define the type of software and operating systems that can be allowed, spell out prohibited applications, determine which group of employees can use their own devices, and control mobile access on a need-to-know basis.
Handset makers too are waking up to the security challenge, as it could put a crimp on sales. For instance, Samsung's latest marquee offering Galaxy III comes loaded with features such as on-device 256-bit encryption, enhanced support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and support for industry-leading virtual private network (VPN) and MDM software and services. These features could adequately address the security concerns of IT departments, which have traditionally favored BlackBerry smartphones for their high level of security.
Other handset makers are likely to follow with similar offerings. New software products that offer better control over documents and data are also coming into the market. The new security features in smartphones will make it easier for enterprises to embrace BYOD.