Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
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Michael Finneran | May 22, 2012 |


BYOD on the High Wire

BYOD on the High Wire It's great that so many vendors have finally "discovered" BYOD. What many still seem to be missing, however, is that BYOD creates a serious responsibility.

It's great that so many vendors have finally "discovered" BYOD. What many still seem to be missing, however, is that BYOD creates a serious responsibility.

A guy who was interviewing me for an article recently asked me what my "feeling" was about BYOD. My answer was that "my feeling" had no relevance--it's happening so we'd better be ready for it!

That claim was certainly supported by the InformationWeek 2012 State of Mobile Security Report I just completed, where we surveyed 322 business technology professionals on their BYOD and mobile security implementations. We found that 62% of the respondents now have policies allowing for the use of personally-owned devices for access to email and other corporate applications, while another 24% plan to have them within 24 months. So a whopping 86% have or will have a BYOD policy.

Most of my end user assignments of late have dealt with helping IT departments come to grips with what they need to do to effectively support BYOD initiatives. Based on the survey results, the most important factor to recognize is that regardless of who owns the device, the need to manage and secure corporate data assets is still a core IT responsibility.

Yet, of those reporting they had or were planning BYOD initiatives, only 40% said that they limited the range of devices and required that mobile device management software be installed on all devices--that's what we consider "best practice" today. A greater percentage, 42%, essentially trusted users to abide by published policies. One of the oldest adages in security is "trust but verify;" this is "trust and pray." Another 10% had no restrictions whatever.

Mobile device management (MDM) systems like those from AirWatch, MobileIron and Sybase are among the tools we are finding to be essential in delivering adequate security for smartphones and tablets--not that those are yet a be-all-and-end-all. While the importance of MDM is widely heralded, only 25% of the respondents reported having MDM systems in place: another 31% are planning to add them within the next 24 months. At the moment, Blackberry device management still has the highest percentage of organizations on board with 63% using it, though if users stick to their current purchase plans, Apple should equal BlackBerry (at 70%) next year and pass them the year after that.

Mobile security shortcomings extend beyond smartphones and tablets. While 84% of respondents cited "Lost or stolen devices" as a top mobile security concern-- more than twice the percentage of any other response (up to 3 responses were allowed)--the third most prevalent security concern--cited by 32% of respondents--was "penetration of the corporate Wi-Fi network." That shocked me because while we did have serious security concerns with the early Wi-Fi security measures, specifically Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption, better options like WPA2 have been around for almost 10 years. In fact, WPA2 support has been a mandatory capability on all Wi-Fi certified devices since 2006. Among respondents, 64% use WPA2, but an astounding 24% report they are still using WEP.

One of the biggest factors working against us in all of this is the absence of a major mobile security fiasco that hits the front page of The Wall Street Journal and finally shakes some budget money loose. We did have such an issue with the TJX (T.J. Maxx's parent) fiasco back in 2007 when the company lost control of 45 million customer credit card numbers resulting in over $50 million in fines. By the way, the fundamental cause of that was the company’s using that WEP encryption for credit card transactions on a Wi-Fi network at a store in Florida--and 24% of our survey respondents are still using WEP.

In the meantime, every vendor has come to the realization that they need to have something to say with regard to BYOD. A couple of months ago I wrote about the WLAN vendors "discovering" BYOD. Avaya introduced something called Avaya Identity Engines (AIE) 8.0 at Interop last week. At NEC's Advantage Executive Conference for Consultants, Analysts, and Dealers last week, the company was talking up "EYOD" or "Enhance Your Own Device". On display was a prototype tentatively called the "phone cradle," similar to those Phil Edholm described in his "End of the Desk Phone?" post a couple of weeks back. The device was essentially a base for the user's iPad that connected via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, the only keypad was on the iPad, so if the iPad wasn't there, you couldn’t place a call. Obviously this is a "work in progress".

It's great that so many vendors have finally "discovered" BYOD, and that they realize how important the issue has become. What many of the vendors still seem to be missing, however, is that BYOD creates a serious responsibility. If all they have to contribute is "brochure dressing," thanks, but that's not the kind of help enterprises need.


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