As organizations seek ways to maintain real-time connections with their workforce and customers in an increasingly digital and mobile-centered world, the growth of mobile cloud will be a major force in shaping the business landscape and future tech decisions. The first blog post in this series, by Padmasree Warrior, explores how the convergence of mobility and cloud will deliver unprecedented transformation for all organizations. The second blog post in this series, by Sujai Hajela, answers the question of what mobile cloud really is and how it continues to provide new business opportunities. In the third post, Joe Cozzolino looks at what mobile cloud means for service providers and enterprises. And finally, this post will discuss the need for end-to-end security in a mobile cloud environment.

Mobile cloud services are growing exponentially in both number and scope. According to a report from Smith’s Point Analytics released late last year, mobile cloud services platforms are projected to grow over the next four years from US$579 million to a staggering US$4.4 billion in 2017.

Despite these projections, many CIOs and CSOs I work with worry about adopting mobile cloud services. Many view the combining of cloud computing and mobility as a perfect storm for security threats—privacy, visibility, data security, policy control are just a few of the major areas of concern. Some of the ones to fear? Data loss, data breaches, malicious insiders and shared services and technology.

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As mobile cloud services grow, end-to-end security models are essential. The traditional models of siloed network, data, device, and application security models will need to evolve to make way for future mobile cloud environments. Through a secure approach to mobile cloud, organizations can begin reaping the benefits mobile cloud can provide such as “Empowered Employees” and “Engaged Customers.”

So, where can organizations start?

The need for security with the pervasiveness cloud and the rise of the Intercloud—a globally interconnected cloud of clouds – is now greater than ever. Now, organizations must contend with the “when” and not the “if” of being “hacked.”

According to a Cisco examination of threat intelligence trends, malicious traffic is visible on 100 percent of corporate networks. Yes—100 percent! Network threats are moving faster than ever to exploit security gaps. As organizations formulate plans to navigate security challenges of mobile cloud, here are two questions from our security experts that should be addressed:

• “Where does our critical data reside?”
• “How can we create a secure environment to protect that data, especially when new business models like cloud computing and mobility leave us with little control over it?”

Cisco has projected that cloud network traffic will grow more than threefold by 2017. With networks being more easily accessible through mobile devices and mobile applications, the sheer number of active mobile devices increases security risks. And to keep pace with a fast-paced business models, organizations must invest in creating products and software that reduce these risks, just as much as they invest in the technology that allows their companies to be mobile.

Creating the secure environment

Whether examining public or private cloud usage, making secure connections is most important. After all, shadow IT is ripping holes in security strategies. And when you factor in the challenges of ensuring cost-effectiveness and efficiency, the job of adopting and securing mobile cloud services is compounded.

So, how do we do this? The answer can potentially be found in the clouds we are protecting.

One of the keys to creating a more secure environment is to take the solutions to the location of the potential problem area—the cloud. Taking measures to actually protect the cloud by finding security solutions that rely on it and can actively respond to security threats within it, is a first step. For example, Cisco offers a Cloud Consumption Assessment Service that helps identify public cloud services within your organization through our Cisco Consulting Services group. Not to negate the power of a business’ own server and firewalls, but a well-protected and well-managed cloud service provides added security safeguard advantages.

And as the saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense.” Taking into consideration the growth of mobile cloud services and threats as constant factors, organizational leaders must be aware of what is on their network (devices, operating systems, services, etc.) and utilize policies and access controls that defend their network.

Attackers and their attack methods are constantly evolving and their barrage require us to be just as fluid in our approaches to fighting them. Agility and efficiency will be key, so be sure your organizations are asking the important questions and looking to the cloud for the solutions.

Visit Executive Perspectives to learn more about how converging technology trends are shaping the way IT operates and delivers services. Be sure to join the conversation, #CiscoCloud and #FutureOfMobility.

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Michael Fuhrman

Vice President

Security Services and Cloud Operations