Mobile Device Security refers to the measures designed to protect sensitive information stored on and transmitted by laptops, smartphones, tablets, wearables, and other portable devices. At the root of mobile device security is the goal of keeping unauthorized users from accessing the enterprise network. It is one aspect of a complete enterprise security plan.
With more than half of business PCs now mobile, portable devices present distinct challenges to network security, which must account for all of the locations and uses that employees require of the company network. Potential threats to devices include malicious mobile apps, phishing scams, data leakage, spyware, and unsecure Wi-Fi networks. On top of that, enterprises have to account for the possibility of an employee losing a mobile device or the device being stolen. To avoid a security breach, companies should take clear, preventative steps to reduce the risk.
Mobile device security, or mobile device management, provides the following:
- Regulatory compliance
- Security policy enforcement
- Support of “bring your own device” (BYOD)
- Remote control of device updates
- Application control
- Automated device registration
- Data backup
Above all, mobile device security protects an enterprise from unknown or malicious outsiders being able to access sensitive company data.
Securing mobile devices requires a multi-layered approach and investment in enterprise solutions. While there are key elements to mobile device security, each organization needs to find what best fits its network.
To get started, here are some mobile security best practices:
- Establish, share, and enforce clear policies and processes
Mobile device rules are only as effective as a company’s ability to properly communicate those policies to employees. Mobile device security should include clear rules about:
- What devices can be used
- Allowed OS levels
- What the company can and cannot access on a personal phone
- Whether IT can remote wipe a device
- Password requirements and frequency for updating passwords
- Password protection
One of the most basic ways to prevent unauthorized access to a mobile device is to create a strong password, and yet weak passwords are still a persistent problem that contributes to the majority of data hacks. Another common security problem is workers using the same password for their mobile device, email, and every work-related account. It is critical that employees create strong, unique passwords (of at least eight characters) and create different passwords for different accounts.
- Leverage biometrics
Instead of relying on traditional methods of mobile access security, such as passwords, some companies are looking to biometrics as a safer alternative. Biometric authentication is when a computer uses measurable biological characteristics, such as face, fingerprint, voice, or iris recognition for identification and access. Multiple biometric authentication methods are now available on smartphones and are easy for workers to set up and use.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi
A mobile device is only as secure as the network through which it transmits data. Companies need to educate employees about the dangers of using public Wi-Fi networks, which are vulnerable to attacks from hackers who can easily breach a device, access the network, and steal data. The best defense is to encourage smart user behavior and prohibit the use of open Wi-Fi networks, no matter the convenience.
- Beware of apps
Malicious apps are some of the fastest growing threats to mobile devices. When an employee unknowingly downloads one, either for work or personal reasons, it provides unauthorized access to the company’s network and data. To combat this rising threat, companies have two options: instruct employees about the dangers of downloading unapproved apps, or ban employees from downloading certain apps on their phones altogether.
- Mobile device encryption:
Most mobile devices are bundled with a built-in encryption feature. Users need to locate this feature on their device and enter a password to encrypt their device. With this method, data is converted into a code that can only be accessed by authorized users. This is important in case of theft, and it prevents unauthorized access.
There are many aspects to a complete security plan. Common elements of a mobile security solution include the following:
- Enterprise Mobile Management platform: In addition to setting up internal device policies that protect against unauthorized access, it’s equally important to have an Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) platform that enables IT to gather real-time insights to catch potential threats.
- Email security: Email is the most popular way for hackers to spread ransomware and other malware. To combat such attacks, it’s critical for businesses to be armed with advanced email security that can detect, block, and address threats faster; prevent any data loss; and protect important information in transit with end-to-end encryption.
- Endpoint protection: This approach protects enterprise networks that are remotely accessed by mobile devices. Endpoint security protects companies by ensuring that portable devices follow security standards and by quickly alerting security teams of detected threats before they can do damage. Endpoint protection also allows IT administrators to monitor operation functions and data backup strategies.
- VPN: A virtual private network, or VPN, extends a private network across a public network. This enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. VPNs’ encryption technology allows remote users and branch offices to securely access corporate applications and resources.
- Secure web gateway: A secure web gateway protects against online security threats by enforcing company security policies and defending against phishing and malware in real-time. This is especially important for cloud security as this type of protection can identify an attack on one location and immediately stop it at other branches.
- Cloud access security broker: A cloud access security broker (CASB) is a tool that sits between cloud service consumers and cloud service providers to enforce security, compliance, and governance policies for cloud applications. CASBs help organizations extend the security controls of their on-premises infrastructure to the cloud.
How does Mobile Device Security complement existing application security and network security efforts?
In addition to monitoring and protecting against malicious threats to a company’s data, mobile device security—when paired with an EMM platform and other network and application security solutions—enables an IT department to remotely manage users and their devices. This capability provides security for all mobile devices connected to a network, while giving IT the option to remotely disable unauthorized users and applications. An EMM also allows IT to remotely wipe company data from a lost or stolen device and to control device updates. All of these measures enhance security significantly.
Making mobile devices secure is not a simple task, but it should be a high priority for any enterprise. To combat the growing threat of cyber-attacks, companies must continually audit their mobile security solutions and consider new security measures as they become available.