Workforce Mobility - A Mission Critical Risk?

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Workplace Mobility – Do I Need to be Concerned?

Check out these scenarios:

Rod uses his smartphone for everything. It’s his communication centre, almost an engine that runs his life, his concerts, his mates, his social media accounts and more. You just recruited him, and he prefers to use his own devices to manage and conduct his work. Now he uses it to work in your business.

Jane is a senior executive with your company, and you give her an extremely high level of trust. All her mobile devices are used to conduct her work, including all communication, multiple calendars, team collaboration and client relations. In fact, now that her own family has grown, she is spinning so many plates you wonder how she achieves all her goals.

And, finally, that poor guy Freddie didn’t live up to what you thought his potential was and you had to let him go! Now, let me think, did IT remember to wipe all our business data from his phone and tablet, did he have a laptop – hmmm?

How do you control and protect all your sensitive and confidential data? And, how do you manage the precarious balance between breaching the privacy of your employees who choose to use their own personal devices in the course of their work, and managing the security of your own company information?

Over the past 3 – 5 years, workforce mobility has exploded. More and more employees are reaping the benefits of working from home and other non-traditional locations. They are using their smartphones and tablets to connect to their places of work and access a range of confidential data and projects, that ultimately, makes their working day more efficient and satisfying. Naturally this affords both employees and employers a range of benefits, such as greater flexibility, improved efficiency, along with reduced costs related to equipment bills.

This mobility shows no signs of slowing down. To the contrary if anything, it is continuing to grow. There is a drive toward creating new strategies that enable greater mobility for the workforce and one must agree that this is going to continue. The trend of allowing employees to use their own devices, or BYOD (bring your own devices) has opened up a whole raft of risks that businesses really must understand and get on top of at all times. Sensitive corporate data is available via a range of devices, operating systems, and locations, in a way that has not been seen before. Obviously for SMEs this is a very clear and present danger. The risk factors are great and the need for proactive security solutions are now a critical requirement, that cannot be ignored.

Growing Demand for Efficient MDM 

Mobile Device Management (MDM) is a burgeoning market place. As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, demand for comprehensive, easy to configure and manage solutions is at its’ highest. In fact since 2015 when the international value of the MDM industry was considered around  $3.8 billion, that has now grown substantially and in 2018 was estimated at being closer to $10 billion (Future Market Insights). This is a clear indication of the need to invest in security measures to protect the mobility of corporate data and manage related enterprise-liabilities.

It is safe to say that workforce mobility, while a great benefit for all concerned, brings with it some of the most challenging risks and threats for today’s businesses. Failure to implement effective management solutions will leave your business vulnerable to ever more sophisticated cybercrime attacks. Your confidential data is highly likely to be totally compromised, the cost of which could be catastrophic.

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Without doubt you need an MDM/EMM solution. It doesn't matter what your situation is, you require a solution that is capable of including all (known) devices and operating systems and management protocols. Whatever your mobility scenarios – and most are a mix of providing some mobile devices and allowing the use of BYOD, it’s imperative that you choose a solution with the capacity to manage all possible situations. Take advice from your IT managers or your security consultant and get a checklist of key factors and what to look for in a good solution.

MDM, EMM Solutions

MDM has almost become the generic term for mobile security. In essence MDM is located in IT departments and manages the whole scenario of deploying, configuring and overall security management of devices that are connected to the business. Enterprise Mobility Management on the other hand is a more recent development and places MDM at its foundation within the model and solution. It goes beyond the basics and “ … centralises the management, configuration and security of all devices both BYO and corporate-owned.” (VMware AirWatch; website) It essentially brings everything together ‘under one roof’ in that, it incorporates everything you require for device management and then goes further to include management and user interface imperatives. Thus, it introduces far more complexity, but has a comprehensive and ‘user friendly’ approach to managing workforce mobility.

Solutions will inevitably differ depending on context, as there are so many services and products available. However, there are some critical features that you should be looking for, although a lot will depend on your specific context.

  • Cloud based – provides a more seamless management of the systems and has automatic updates; although it is noted that not everyone wants cloud services as some businesses prefer to operate systems in their own data centres

  • 24/7 monitoring

  • Remote configuration

  • Enforcement protocols

  • Ease and efficiency of on-boarding

  • Rapid detection of threats and changes such as, jailbreaking or verification

  • Virus check, remote lock and remote wipe in the event of stolen or lost devices

  • Backups/restore, remote disconnection

If you are already working with an IT Management Service and you're unsure about the content of plans, then contact your consultant and get them to analyse your business and advise you on specifications related to your own business context.

Just in Case! Do You Already Have Security You’re Not Aware Of?

It is possible and it has sometimes been the case, that you already have some basic MDM features within your existing IT or server plan that you are not making use of or, may not even be aware of. For example, if you’re running Microsoft Exchange or Google G-Suite you might not have made use of the MDM features that are already built into these packages. If you do not need a fully-fledged MDM/EMM solution, these features might bring some serious value add without any extra expenditure.

If you have a contract with another service provider, check it through to make sure you haven’t missed any potential MDM features hidden away somewhere.

2019 Top MDM Solutions

Among the top-ranking solutions on offer for 2019 include:

Microsoft InTune which boast a range of sophisticated features and will work most Microsoft-centric environments.

Cisco Meraki was Gartners’ top solution in 2018. It is easy to deploy, staff can be trained in-house and it takes account of BOYD, MDM/EMM. It is straightforward to set up and ongoing management is relatively easy, and this makes it a popular choice.

VMware AirWatch which is a top ranking, solid product but may take a lot of configuration before a pilot and/or final deployment.

Other systems, while being extremely good and affordable, can also be quite complex to configure and may require some offsite staff training.

Mobility is Here to Stay

In the end a lot will come down to you, and those who take care of your business' security. Definitely do your own due diligence and go through the research and the white papers. Compare software against your own needs and of course, durability.

Workforce mobility is not going away. It will continue to grow, and the inherent security issues will always need to be addressed and continuously updated. You will need to develop highly proactive strategies and solutions that are regularly reviewed and overhauled. This will ensure that all parties are protected at all times.

Above all you must protect your assets, your data, from potential attack. And, as you can see this is far easier to implement and deploy today than it has ever been before. Likewise, you must protect both yourself and your employees, who are using their own devices, from data breaches and the broad range of security issues that exist.

Overall there is plenty to be considered.

Shadowserve, is in the business of protecting businesses. We offer MDM/EMM solutions as a normal part of our layered security model.

If you have questions, then feel free to contact us for a no obligation chat.


Sources and further reading