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Mobile Clinic: How do you make mobile data secure?

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Michael Lawrence, Head of Enablers, Orange Business Services UK
www.orange.co.uk

Today's fiercely-competitive global landscape leaves organisations facing unprecedented pressure to equip their workforces with devices that enable productive mobile working.

However, increasing ubiquity of mobile technology has also led to a rising concern for the security of business-critical data. Balancing the end-user benefits of flexible working with the need for control of sensitive information remains essential. By embracing the latest mobile security and device management technologies, while also balancing this with proactive education of end-users, organisations can ensure they reap the benefits of flexible working while also minimising the attendant risks.

The latest enterprise mobility solutions, including RIM's BlackBerry service and Microsoft's Exchange Server-based systems, offer a number of sophisticated security features designed to allay mobile security fears.

This is not to say, however, that smaller organisations, unable to deploy these enterprise-grade solutions will automatically face greater risks than their larger rivals. On the contrary, a number of simple steps exist to help companies of all sizes minimise the risk of data theft through efficient use of technology.

These include monitoring networks regularly for "rogue" access points and controlling use of removable data devices such as memory cards, USB sticks, and portable hard drives. Other effective tactics include enforcing a system of access passwords/PINs; employing an automated back-up facility to safeguard against data loss; deploying firewalls and mobile antivirus solutions to protect against malicious attacks; and remotely locking/wiping any lost or stolen devices.

Clearly, a range of technology steps therefore exist to help organisations of all sizes manage the security risks presented by increasing mobile working. However, it is also essential that companies adopt a positive approach to this issue – one which encourages awareness and proactivity throughout the workforce.

Again, Orange recommends a series of simple yet effective steps here. Companies should establish sensible policies that marry business needs to IT contingency plans as closely as possible. Here, it is important to engage openly with end-users rather than simply prescribe draconian rules.

An element of device choice will help ensure buy-in from users, while internal "amnesties" on the use of unauthorised personal handsets will be received more warmly than outright bans. Active communication with partners and suppliers will also be rewarded, allowing companies to take advantage of hosted security services from their mobile operator, for example.

Staff training is an essential way to encourage best-practice, while close support will help to ensure this advice is adhered to in practice.

Finally, as with any law, mobile security policies must have consequences to be truly effective, and there are times when rules must be enforced. Again, internal education will ensure that end-users are aware of these penalties in advance.

In conclusion, while mobile working does heighten potential security risks, these can be effectively minimised through sensible IT management practices. It is important that mobile operators take the lead here. Technology-based solutions will undoubtedly play their part, but in order to be truly effective, these must be balanced by a proactive, policy-based approach.

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