Security in the Mobile Era

  • TOPIC: Uncategorized
  • AUTHOR: Peter Chen
  • DATE: 02/23/2012

Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets or even laptops are no longer just communication devices; they are an essential part of our everyday lives. This also applies to businesses, as the ability to embrace mobile communications can make or break a company.
   

However, mobile devices can be and are quickly becoming a double-edged sword. The same smartphones and tablets that greatly improve business efficiency can also act as a backdoor into your office network or devices for dangerous malware. Stepping aside from the digital aspects of security for a moment, more and more business critical data such as confidential emails, presentations, and customer information now reside on our mobile devices one way or another. With our whole lives and businesses now in these devices, a stolen phone can potentially be catastrophic.

So with all the potential risks and dangers this new mobile era brings, what can you do to mitigate these threats and maximize the benefits of mobile devices?

Authentication and Encryption

Since a vast majority of mobile devices use wireless to connect to the Internet, a big step towards securing your wireless network is to use Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) for authentication and encryption (WEP and WPA are no longer safe to use). This will help ensure that communications from mobile devices are encrypted and cannot be eavesdropped. It will also prevent rogue or unwanted mobile devices from accessing your network.

Guest Wireless Network

This brings us to step two; which is to setup a guest wireless network. This is done through proper network segmentation with the use of virtual LANs (VLANs). A properly segmented network will not only help enforce access control, but also improve network efficiency. An example network segmented with VLANs might contain a VLAN for employee Internet access, a VLAN for servers containing sensitive customer data, and a VLAN that is mapped to a guest wireless SSID for guest access. Doing this will allow visitors, contractors, and other guests to access the Internet with their mobile devices, but keep them away from your production servers.

Even if you run a solo home business, setting up a guest wireless network is a good idea in the case that you ever need to grant wireless access to any customers, vendors, visitors, or even relatives. The bottom line is that you want your business running on its own unique wireless network, and you should never grant access to others – keep them all on a separate guest network and your business will be more secure.

Mobile Devices

Once the network is secure, the next step is to secure the mobile devices themselves. Part of this step is to install security software onto the mobile devices. The threat of viruses and other malware targeting phones and tablets is very real and will be even bigger moving forward. There have already been numerous reports of iPhone or Android devices being infected and data being stolen off of them. To combat these latest threats, security software vendors have already introduced security apps for iOS and Android that perform malware scanning. These can typically be found on the app stores for their respective platforms.

Lock Codes

Finally, we can never overlook the physical security aspect of mobile devices. Lost or stolen devices pose a huge risk for businesses as sensitive data is often left on the device in the form of emails or saved documents. Many apps do not require the user to login each time the app is executed, which can provide unwanted access to sensitive data stored in the cloud. To mitigate this risk, a company policy that requires all smartphones and tablets have a lock code in place will go a long way in preventing data leaks from lost or stolen devices.

By following the steps above, a business should have at least a baseline level of protection against threats and risks that come inherent with mobile devices. For a startup, this is critical, as lost or stolen data can cost the business thousands if not millions of dollars in damages. By securing the wireless network and the individual devices, the business can reap the efficiency that mobility brings and focus its efforts on what really matters – the business itself.

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