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CISO Challenge: Flexible Mobile Management

These days the mobile fleet in most organization breaks down into three categories: corporate-owned devices, shared corporate-owned devices (tablets for events, point of sale, or for QA testing and field services teams that take them to service calls), and BYOD devices.

While most organizations still have a mix of these devices in their fleet, BYOD accounts for a growing percentage. The reason: BYOD not provides convenience and improved productivity for users, it also reduces cost and administration headaches for organizations. The biggest thing I hear in my conversations with CISOs is that they are concerned about how to effectively manage the different categories of devices in their mobile fleet.

Unfortunately, managing three categories of mobile devices has become a challenge for IT, both logistically and financially. In an effort to keep overhead low some organizations are trying to use the same technology and the same set of policies to manage across all three categories. With some users on corporate devices and some on their own devices, it’s nearly impossible to implement the same set of policies across both groups. Compounding these issues are the complaints of the users. With different policies for each group, IT hears a lot of “why can Jane do this on her device, but I can’t on mine?”

Enterprise Mobile ManagementAnother strategy for dealing with a segmented mobile fleet is to deploy different solutions or policies for the different categories of devices – MDM for corporate-owned devices, MAM for BYOD devices. The problem with this is that creating different rules or a different playbook for users depending on which kind of device they are using not only becomes confusing for the users, it also increases support overhead for IT. So how do we level the playing field while using different rules for each group? The answer: we can’t.

This is not to say that organizations have not tried this approach. Many try to tackle this issue by treating corporate-owned devices and user-owned devices similarly when it comes to the applications they permit, how they allow the device to access the enterprise, as well as how they secure these devices. However, this model is scary for many organizations that believe that corporate-owned devices should be fully locked down, 100 percent restricted, and made into as secure an environment as possible – completely overlooking user experience and productivity. On the other hand, these same organizations think BYOD should create a great user experience, respecting user privacy and productivity, with just enough security to check the boxes. And, now we’re back at square one, with two separate sets of polices.

Realistically, this just doesn’t work. At the end of the day mobile is mobile. We allow users to bring data on devices and encourage them to do so because of the productivity gains for the users, and the organization. Unfortunately, that means we’re segmenting the user population, essentially giving some permission to be productive, while severely limiting others. We’re creating different security controls based only on who owns the devices, not based on actual usage, or actual risk.  This is not realistic, and not an efficient or effective way to secure corporate data. We need visibility into how our employees are using mobile, how they are accessing data and what they are doing with that data before we can create policies to protect it. We need to embrace user experience, increase productivity, and address security at the same time. It is possible.

Security policies should be based on the individual user and the individual risk, not on device ownership. But how can you do this if some users are on corporate-owned devices and some are on user-owned ones? The answer is to migrate all users to user-owned devices. By having all users bring their own device we can get out of the device ownership business – eliminating the cost of purchasing devices and reducing support overhead, while simplifying the security controls for these devices by managing everything as you would with BYOD. Set one security standard. It can be as restricted as the organization wants, but it should be one standard.

This might be a big step for some organizations. However, yesterday’s device management approach does not work in a BYOD world. The end users are bringing their own devices, so we need to adjust to accommodate this new world order. Moving forward, securing mobile will be about securing the applications, and ultimately, the data in them. With insight into the actual usage of, and risk to, the data, we can comfortably move away from device ownership and focus on enabling our end users.

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Adam Ely is the Founder and COO of Bluebox. Prior to this role, Adam was the CISO of the Heroku business unit at Salesforce where he was responsible for application security, security operations, compliance, and external security relations. Prior to Salesforce, Adam led security and compliance at TiVo and held various security leadership roles within The Walt Disney Company where he was responsible for security operations and application security of Walt Disney web properties. Adam is a CISSP, CISA, NSA IAM, MCSE and holds an MBA from Florida State University.