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Mobile Clinic: How do you make mobile data secure?

Keeping it safe

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Ed Moore, OpenWeb Product Manager, Openwave Europe
www.openwave.com

Mobile data security is a many-headed Hydra; with a variety of potential issues to be addressed under the single banner. Mobile also covers a variety of potential access devices, from laptops down to phones and even internet cafes, all of which have to be addressed.

Securing data on laptops and phones

Any device with more than just a contact list and browser should have security measures mandated. For non-sensitive work a password and rotation policy is sufficient, but for personal data records or sensitive business data then data encryption technology must be used as well.

Tracking services should also be considered; these will trace the device after being stolen so that remote deletion can be triggered or the unit retrieved.

Finally, if a mobile is being used for collecting or generating primary data (as opposed to copying data from a centralised system) synchronisation/centralised backup software can be used too. This should minimise the possibility that valuable data can be lost through theft or accident.

Protection against attack

Viruses, Trojans and Phishing attacks can all attack mobile devices and laptops or smartphones can be especially sensitive to these, as they can be taken outside of your corporate network, which may provide a degree of security at the network edge.

All devices should have anti-virus protection and ideally be configured to use a corporate (but external) security proxy for general internet access. This may not be possible in all cases, but will help give the most complete protection. The problem can be resolved in an alternative manner; by specifying standard phones for data access; with a closed platform it is much more difficult to suffer a meaningful attack.

Securing corporate communications

Always encrypt the traffic to a corporate network, SSL or IPSec encryption is common to all mobiles these days and there's no excuse not to make this a policy. Encryption can be used at a single application level or to secure the whole data pipe, but any application with automated log-on needs to be watched particularly carefully. Apply passwords and ensure these are used when establishing a connection, otherwise anyone can quickly gain access. A two-factor authentication service may be needed for added protection.

Stealing corporate secrets

There's always the potential for a staff member to use a mobile device to transport company secrets away from the office. Laptops have enormous storage capacity these days and usually CD burners and Wi-Fi connections too, to compound the problem. Logging and tracking software can help provide some security, but in reality this is just covering up the problem. Concentrate HR on keeping the staff happy instead!

Final Recommendations

Simplify the problem; use standard handsets if at all possible with browser access to corporate applications. Don't store locally and don't enable viruses.

Standardise wherever possible; same handsets, laptops, security software, and encryption technique. Proliferation always lessens effectiveness.

Consider all angles; you'll end up with a more comprehensive policy because of it. ®

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