4 Rules of Thumb for Better Mobile Device Security

Security threats are everywhere, lurking in alley ways and around corners and even in your favorite coffee shop. Yet mobility is in demand, and people will use their smartphones and other mobile devices because it’s convenient, even if company policy suggests against it.

This is a big deal for IT and security professionals and CIOs, which is why it took a while for IT to recognize the need to address mobile device security rather than simply deny mobile device use. With data breaches, ransomware attacks, hacks and information leaks happening on an almost daily basis, businesses must find ways to protect their valuable applications and data from loss or misuse while at the same time enabling mobile device use.

The following 4 rules of thumb are not comprehensive but are four essential rules of thumb to help guide business owners in addressing mobility management and security within their organizations.

Rule 1: Make sure there are clear mobile device use policies and support them with ongoing administration and strict enforcement.

I can’t say enough about having good security and mobile device policies and keeping them modernized, relevant, and actually enforcing them. Too many businesses say they have a “security and use” policy in place, yet it is outdated and doesn’t reflect the actual tools or processes currently in use.  Even more frequently a business will develop a policy just to say it has one, but won’t actually train workers or enforce compliance.

Rule 2: Require and enforce strong passwords, manage access in real time, and force password changes with some frequency.

It is essential that all user access to applications or data be controlled at minimum by password-protected logins to the device and corporate resources coupled with periodic forced password changes. Users often prefer to not require passwords or other authentication for device access, but corporate policy should not only require them but also enforce their use.  Also, user access should be managed in real time, meaning that any aspect relating to access should be disabled or revoked immediately upon employee termination or reassignment. Too often these forgotten chores are relegated to after-the-fact IT administration, which allows users to access resources beyond their rightful boundaries.

Rule 3:  Do something to contain the applications and data on the device.

Whether the approach is with containers, cloud hosting, server-based computing or something else, it is really important to try to “contain” the applications and data accessed from the mobile device. Risk is created when users sync data directly to the device’s storage or install applications directly on the device to access corporate data. Password and other security measures prevent unauthorized access, but allowing applications, credentials or data to be stored directly on the mobile device allows those things to interact with other things on the device.  Containers, hosting and server-based computing models keep the applications and data within secured spaces, often not even storing essential items on the device but only accessing them via the device. This allows the business to provide users with the access and functionality they need to do their jobs, but also reduces the vulnerability of applications and information assets.

Rule 4: Keep device software up to date and download fewer apps.

Updating mobile device operating system versions and release levels is important to make sure the device has the most current security patches and threat protection.   Some mobile OSes even have capabilities which can help keep personal and work apps separated.  Limiting the number of apps users can download to their devices should also be considered. Users may randomly download and install applications to their devices with little regard for the quality or security of the app, and often accept terms of use without really reading them. Consumer apps from app stores may pose risks to data and the device, so IT should check regularly for problematic apps if the device is used to access the corporate network, applications or data.

Mobile and wireless are in demand

Just about every business has people who use their phones and tablets for some business use, and every one of those mobile devices and the apps running on them could open the door for a hacker, ransomware, data theft or compromise. While there are many benefits to be gained by enabling remote and mobile devices in the business workflow, unrestricted access only creates risk.

Keeping mobile devices secure for business use takes multiple approaches, as there is no single method or solution that works for every situation. Our 4 rules provide a basic foundation for business mobility management, offering a starting point for developing a more thorough and detailed plan.

Make sense?


Mobilizing QuickBooks Desktops

 Hosted QuickBooks for Remote and Mobile Access

There was a time not too long ago when the “thought leaders” in information technology said that the desktop is dead, and all software will be accessed via the web. (Note: I put “thought leaders” in quotes because industry thought leaders are often those with the greatest media influence.  After all, you can’t lead them if you can’t reach them, right?). The whole no software thing is a dramatic oversimplification of what is happening with computer software, but one thing is kind of coming true: nobody wants to be tied to their desktop.  It’s not that the desktop is dead… it’s just not all there is. For users of the desktop editions of Intuit QuickBooks software, the question really isn’t whether they intend to give up their familiar and trusted software to use a different, online solution. The question is how to use the QuickBooks desktop software they want in the cloud so they can use it on desktops that aren’t the primary desktop computer, or on mobile devices.

Computing technology has finally reached a level of accessibility that was previously only imagined in science fiction stories.  Communicating instantaneously with anyone anywhere around the world; accessing extensive (limitless?) libraries of information, art and music with a simple handheld device – these are the things that people do every day without a second thought.  Business users may even be able to access their business documents, email, contacts and appointments etc. from mobile devices, enabling a productive and functional mobile workforce.
desktop-appsYet the desktop remains as the primary workhorse for most business users. This is where the productivity applications live, where large spreadsheets and full-screen applications are run, and where keyboarders and production data entry users operate.  Tablets, touchscreens and mobile devices just don’t provide the same capabilities unless you tether them to full size monitors and keyboards.  Even then they may not because they might not run the same OS as the desktop.  The point is that the desktop hasn’t gone away and isn’t likely to any time soon.  Users may use more mobile apps and devices, but this isn’t diminishing use on the desktop as much as it augmenting it.  This is what fuels the interest in application hosting and virtual desktop computing models – the desire to mobilize desktop and network applications and working environments.

Hosting applications and data gives businesses the flexibility of working in desktop applications and accessing data just as if they were in the office, yet users may be located anywhere there is Internet connectivity. When the applications and the associated data are managed in the datacenter, businesses are able to centralize their information assets and manage them more effectively than if the data were distributed among multiple computers.  While most sync and share solutions require files to be downloaded to local computers in order to open and edit, a hosted application service with virtual desktops and file sharing provides a security model which keeps business data secure yet available for user access without compromising security by downloading information to the user device.

A hosted solution approach can make license utilization more efficient and compliance easier to maintain, too.  By enabling access to applications on a centralized platform and eliminating the installation and maintenance of software on individual computers, businesses reduce the reliance on local IT personnel to install and update applications and user accounts, and improve their ability to control application assignments and usage.

Hosting helps businesses take advantage of technology that would otherwise be unaffordable, and delivers the mobility and centralized management required to boost productivity and contain costs.  There is a high cost to managing a business network, and creating secure mobile access to that network can represent an exponential increase in IT spending (just to initially set up, not to mention ongoing costs for security management, monitoring and support). Rather than taking on the entire burden of service management and delivery directly, businesses electing to work with hosting providers find that they are able to focus more on business operation, strategy and growth – and spend less time worrying about the IT supporting them.  Costs are reduced, workers are empowered, and capabilities are increased while knowledge and process investments are preserved.  When it comes to mobilizing business applications like QuickBooks desktop editions, it all starts with a hosted approach.

Joanie Mann Bunny FeetMake Sense?