What's Different About Mobile Security?

Posted on October 21, 2014

Now that mobile devices are rapidly becoming the primary end-user computing platform in many workplaces, the world of information security is undergoing a profound shift. That's because securing corporate data and minimizing risk requires a different approach in a mobile first world than in a PC-centric computing environment. That's the key message in a new white paper from Breezy partner MobileIron, which is available for free download at this link.

The 12-page white paper explains that there are two key reasons why IT needs to adopt new strategies for securing corporate data on mobile devices, as compared to PCs. First, IT has reduced control over mobile devices. The Mobile First era is all about the end user. They get to pick a mobile platform that best meets their personal preferences, with the expectation that the device should also work in a business context for the full range of apps and content needed to stay productive.

This is in stark contrast from the PC era where IT offered end-users an approved PC with a set of pre-selected apps. End-users had very limited say on what the PC was able to access and IT had the ability to control every aspect of the corporate-owned device from physical ports, to software and application versions. For mobile, end-users make the decision for many of these variables and IT can only recommend devices and applications. IT has no way to enforce a standard OS, device or app across the organization. In fact, the more IT tries to lock down devices, the more end-users will try to by-pass policies, increasing risk to the organization, the report says.

Second, old security models are no longer relevant. In the PC operating system scenario, the agent-based security method worked well. This involved a piece of software residing on the PC that controlled the process and data belonging to other applications. Unfortunately, this agent-based security model cannot be used to secure Mobile because of the differences in the way these operating systems are designed.

Mobile operating systems are designed using a sandboxed architecture which enables for isolation of apps and associated data which can only interact and share data through very well-defined mechanisms. This allows for greater security than the open-file system used by PC OS, and needs new tools that leverage specific security capabilities made available by the device vendor itself.

Different Threats Require Different Responses

Prat Agarwal, director of business development at secure mobile printing leader Breezy, agrees with the new MobileIron white paper that mobile devices expose company data to different threats. "Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) tools help companies minimize risk and protect data without interfering with end-user productivity," Agarwal says. "The methods are different than those used in a PC-only environment, because the threats are different."

The differences include device-based threats such as:

In addition, mobile devices are always connected to the Internet, and users often rely on untrusted public networks that provide a way for malicious parties to access and intercept transmitted data using rouge access points, Wi-Fi sniffing tools, and sophisticated man-in-the-middle attacks. Agarwal says, "The only proven way to protect against man-in-the-middle attacks is on-device encryption. That's why Breezy encrypts every file: so the simple act of sending a document to a printer doesn't open the door to this kind of attack.

For more information about the kinds of threats posed by mobile devices, and how to combat them with proven tools, download the new MobileIron white paper, or the mobile threats infographic available at the same link, watch this video from Breezy, or download The Definitive Guide to Mobile Printing, a free ebook from Breezy.

Graphic credit: The graphic is part of an infographic called Security in the Mobile First Era by MobileIron; �2014 MobileIron.

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