The explosion in business mobility is transforming our companies in profound—and sometimes challenging—ways. One of the most vexing issues is security.
Recently, I came across a Wharton article predicting that by 2015, more Americans will access the Internet through mobile devices than PCs. From open data to an increase in government-accessed information, this sweeping trend raises questions about the true security of mobile networks and devices. But how can an organization support the infusion of wireless devices into employees’ lives without opening the door to heightened security risks?
One way to begin increasing security on mobile devices is to follow three simple, yet underutilized, precautions:
Prescribe passwords. In corporate America, we often joke that our password is “password.” It’s funny until you consider that for the majority of mobile device users, any password (even “password”) would be a leap forward in security. According to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by CTIA, which was referenced in the Wharton article, less than half of all wireless device owners use passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs) on their handhelds. Considering the very real threat from cybercriminals, smartphones and tablets must be safeguarded with antivirus software and password protection.
Once established, password information must be managed. In a global McAfee survey, 15 percent of the respondents said they keep password information on their phones. Over half of those surveyed said they share password information with others. Keeping passwords confidential can help eliminate risk associated with devices falling into the wrong hands.
Embrace BYOD. Not long ago, IT decision makers could afford to indulge their fear of the unknown and drag their heels on BYOD (bring your own device). Those days are gone. In a recent blog post, I discussed the reality—BYOD is here to stay. With more than 80 percent of companies having some BYOD capability, businesses should look to implement mature strategies and policies that address the challenges BYOD may present. This type of “Comprehensive BYOD” strategy should include specific security features for mobile devices, including mandatory password protection and remote wipe, which enables IT leaders to clear sensitive company data from devices. Such solutions will create a win-win for employees, IT leaders, and their companies.
Architect the architecture—for security. Companies can increase their security features by unifying wired, wireless, and virtual private networks (VPNs) into a single, highly secure network infrastructure. A unified network provides system wide visibility on who and what is on the network; monitors access to confidential information; and assesses real-time threats. It also simplifies the design and implementation of security policies throughout the network. Additional options are available for businesses seeking to bolster security across more disparate networks.
Security fears may be an inhibitor to business mobility, but they are far from a deal-breaker. With the right security policies and solutions, mobile business devices promise tremendous benefits for all organizations. And that includes yours.
Are you interested in learning more about mobile security? Follow @Cisco_Mobility and join the conversation, #CiscoMobility.
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