By Paul Andersen
Like cloud computing, mobility—or more specifically, the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend—is causing businesses to reevaluate their approach to information technology. It is also presenting IT with a major challenge: preventing a security disaster. Every personal mobile device connected to the corporate network is a threat and every personal tablet and smartphone introduces the potential for data leakage.
Security concerns arise when traditional VPNs are used to connect mobile devices to the corporate network. VPNs create a tunnel through which data may escape or attacks may be introduced. In addition, it is impossible to lock down personal devices the way one would a traditional managed device such as a laptop or desktop PC. Mobile devices are also greater in number, more prone to theft or loss, and more frequently open up the organization to the risks of personal use.
Mobile device management (MDM) solutions provide some measure of control over mobile devices connected to the corporate network and simplify the provisioning of apps, but they do not fully mitigate risk.
Device support is another consideration. Before enacting policy and opening the BYOD floodgates, the implications of supporting multiple applications, platforms, and OS versions should be carefully considered. As every permutation imaginable surfaces, business can end up mired in helpdesk calls and upgrade requirements or curtailing BYOD support after the fact.
An often overlooked pitfall of implementing BYOD is the lack of native enterprise applications. Although many more business apps will be developed over time, the challenge is enabling BYOD today. At present, a vast majority of enterprise applications remain tied to Windows and traditional desktop environments. Even if a BYOD solution supports a broad range of personal devices in a secure manner, the investment can still be a disaster if the applications employees use every day are not available in the mobile environment.
To enable mobility and avoid a bring-your-own-disaster scenario, many businesses, solution providers, and value-added resellers have taken a clever approach to BYOD—one that leverages remote desktop access and secure access gateways to extend applications on physical or virtual desktops or terminal services to mobile devices.
Unlike with VPNs, mobile devices do not connect directly to the corporate network. Because data never leaves the corporate network, data leakage is fully eliminated. And because devices are kept off the network, the risk of attack is eliminated as well.