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Securing from the App Level

I am not the kind of person who writes something simply to be controversial. While I have written a few articles for No Jitter that have caused some people to challenge my thoughts and opinions, I don't write them with the sole purpose of raising a ruckus. I write them because I truly believe in what I am saying.

An example can be found in my recent No Jitter article, The VPN is Dead, Long Live the SBC. While I had a number of people publicly and privately agree with me, some took objection to my line of reasoning. While some of those objections came from people in the VPN industry who believed strongly in their products, others came from VPN users who felt I was either wrong or at a minimum, premature in my conjectures. While no one disagreed that we all need to be vigilant about security, how we accomplished that was different for different people.

One of the most intriguing agreements came in the form of an email from the folks at Mocana. They invited me to hear how they were addressing security beyond VPNs. Always one to learn something new, I accepted their offer and spent a good hour speaking with them over the phone and several more reading through a care package of documents and product sheets. What I discovered was that there are quite a few ways to skin the enterprise protection cat that I hadn't considered.

In my VPN article, I discussed the difference between encrypting data sent and received from a device (e.g. an IPsec tunnel from an iPhone or Android mobile telephone) and encrypting the data from an application (e.g. TLS and SRTP from an iPhone SIP client). I expressly discussed how malicious traffic can ride an encrypted device tunnel all the way into an enterprise's internal network and how application-level security and an edge security device such as a session border controller prevented that from happening.

Mocana is in 100% agreement with that, but wants enterprises to take it one step further. Instead of simply securing the data stream that a mobile app sends and receives, it injects security policies into the binary code of the app itself. These policies could be that the app must use a secure data stream (including a pre-app VPN), but they can be so much more. For instance, policies can be defined that control how the app secures data on the mobile device along with different encryption levels that can be set for the data stream. Additionally, Mocana protects enterprises from jailbroken mobile devices and can be used to implement and enforce data loss prevention (DLP) solutions.

Its solution is called the Mocana Atlas Platform, and it consists of three main components:

These are the previously mentioned mobile apps that have had their binaries stuffed full of enterprise security policies. The apps can be built by enterprises, third-party developers, or pulled from Mocana's list of certified apps including quite a few from companies such as SAP, Taptera, and OpenText.

This is the point-and-click tool an enterprise uses to define the security policies and associated parameters for an app. It then injects them directly into the binary code, and users can download the enhanced app to their mobile devices. Mocana claims that an app can be secured in less than six seconds.

Additionally, enterprises that develop their own apps have the option of natively building in X.509 certificate-based SSO (single sign-on) and other security measures with the Atlas Lighthouse SDK.

The Atlas Appliance resides within an enterprise's security perimeter and is the entry point for Mocana-enabled apps. It ensures that only apps that adhere to the previously set security policies are allowed into the enterprise's network. The Atlas Appliance is highly scalable and supports hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections.

Putting it all together, we have the following picture. Notice the "firewalled" relationship between the mobile app, corporate network, and data resources. The Atlas Appliance brokers all connections into the network and enforces security policies set for the apps.

There are a number of different use cases for Mocana, ranging from retail to transportation. Imagine airport mechanics accessing sensitive service information via a secured Mocana app on their tablets or account managers for a manufacturing company being prevented from sharing sensitive corporate data from their iPhones.

Digging a little deeper, I see huge opportunities for Mocana in the field of healthcare. The Mocana MAP process can require apps to protect confidential patient medical records with Data-at-Rest (DAR) FIPS 140-2 certified encryption. Additionally, MAP protects against unintentional data leakage through copy/paste protection and the use of app-level password and passphrase authentication.

As healthcare providers struggle to deal with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health), knowing that the apps they deploy meet those requirements gives them one less thing to worry about.

Up until this point, I have emphasized mobile apps that you might find on an iPhone, iPad, or Samsung Galaxy. However, Mocana isn't limited to smart phones and tablets. As enterprises embrace and deploy Internet of Things (IoT) devices and solutions, the same concerns about security and data protection exist for these new and exciting devices.

Mocana can play a role here, too. Securing the software that runs on IoT devices ensures that rogue devices and potentially malicious activity is stopped at an enterprise's network edge. This allows companies to roll-out everything from IoT temperature gauges to scales without the fear of nasty people using them to do harm.

As BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) continues to be a major component of most enterprise's mobility strategies, security remains high on the list of concerns. As I have made perfectly clear, I am a big fan of securing applications and less so of securing devices. However, securing an application's signaling and media only solves one piece of the security puzzle. Mocana's approach of looking at apps in a holistic manner allows IT managers to feel confident that anything it allows access to their network adheres to even the strictest security requirements.

Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.

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