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6 Best Practices for Ensuring Enterprise Mobile Device Security

Data loss on mobile devices is a major concern for businesses, according to Gartner. Today's smartphones, tablets, and other mobile tools contain more and more sensitive data. A breach of any phone or network could have serious repercussions within the enterprise.

As a result, CIOs are under increasing boardroom pressure to focus on security in their mobility programs in addition to their enterprise IT systems. But managing employees' mobile devices to ensure compliance can be an overwhelming task.

Security is one of the highest priorities in life, business, and government, but a common perception is that responsibility lies elsewhere -- with the police, military, or perhaps even a CISO. Security should be a shared effort in the business environment, but all too often companies design and build solutions in response to security "theater," rather than addressing practical use cases with realistic solutions.

While evidence overwhelmingly shows that enterprises have spent money on security, most get diminishing results. Mobile is ground zero for this, and often lacking is a clearly articulated management view about what actually needs to be secured. Clear thinking about the aims and means of enterprise mobile security is necessary to make tangible progress. What follows are best practices that comprise a first step in that direction.

Create a mobility policy: Having a mobility policy in place is a rare but increasingly important part of an enterprise's overall IT security and resources management plan. Businesses today are turning to consulting and professional services practices (such as mobility management services, or MMS, providers) to help them with this task. Ideally, a policy is in place before implementing an enterprise mobility management solution.

Factor in the mixing of business and personal use: Most enterprise organizations expect a mix of personal and business use on employees' mobile devices, whether they officially provide for that or not. However, they need to ask themselves how they can govern around the edges of this reality. Enterprises care deeply about corporate data and intellectual property that should not be shared externally. Yet they realize the risk they face by setting too many personal restrictions.

Be transparent and flexible: So, a hypothetical business finds software that it can install on employees' devices to block critical data from leaving the enterprise. It makes this part of its mobility policy and is transparent with employees about it. But it also asks employees for feedback on any issues or extenuating circumstances that may arise as it implements this policy.

De-provisioning process: Another business deploys mobile devices to its employees. An executive finds his device unproductive and gets a new one. What happens to the old device? Does it get repurposed to another employee? Or sold to the after-market? What happens to stored data that might be sensitive? Often, companies do not have a viable process for how to handle the old device, leaving a significant financial and security gap in their operation. A responsible mobility policy must include a strong de-provisioning process. But very few companies achieve this state.

Focus on what's really important: Likewise, companies can be too focused on application management, believing "the device isn't important to manage, it's the application." Fundamentally, the most-used application on enterprise mobile devices is the native email client. However, native email links to the device's operating system. Management framework must be holistic and pragmatic. The value of a mobile policy is diminished if it doesn't take native applications like email (or a variety of others) into account.

Know your enemy: Last, but not least, ask who or what are your organization is securing your mobile devices against. Is it user misuse? Corporate espionage? Competitors? When you ask these questions, only then can you focus your resources on the most important security risks to address in your mobility policy.

Enterprises need outside-the-box thinking, and should consider outsourcing some or all of a mobility program to an MMS provider. Security is a balance among pragmatism, usability, and business requirements. If you don't achieve balance, your policy is in jeopardy.