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If users are a security threat, how do you manage them?

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The essential guide to IT transformation

Ed Moore, OpenWeb product manager, Openwave Europe

Educating and managing are very different things; one implies awareness while the other restrictions. If you do one then you may not require the other, but I can see a combination of the two working best.

Let’s start at the big picture for education and work inwards to specific points. I’d start with managing expectations and this should start well before an employee joins the company ideally. If you want to stay in control then be very clear about what is to be expected. If company policy states one mobile network and one make of handset which can only be changed after 24 months then say so.

Also say why, especially if it’s an argument that’s not factually based; ‘data security’ is good, ‘budget controls’ is also pretty good but I consider ‘compatibility’ to be less so as it opens up arguments which can be hard to win.

If your policy is to allow everything but a user is on their own in terms of support, that can also be a fine policy – if you have the power to stand up for it. Many a time I’ve seen a rogue user sheepishly approach a help desk for support even though they purchased a totally unsupportable piece of experimental kit. If you can’t say no at this point then you’re in trouble.

After awareness you should go for generic education and this should be a mixture of technical and behavioural; don’t leave your handset on view, use a headset in the car, backup your contacts, unplug your adaptor when not in use.

Make people aware of dangers; don’t leave Bluetooth enabled as your handset files can be read by someone else, put on passwords and lock the screen when idle, clear out sent messages from the Outbox. Such rules should be made in to a user guide and ideally training course, you then have everyone sign that they’ve understood it. At least it’ll get some attention that way.

What to do about specific device handset support and education? My recommendation would be to make a simple website and get users to visit it from their phone browser. It’ll force everyone to get that far and also gives you the User Agent. You can use this to show help tips for the particular device and makes it far more relevant.

Management is hard to decide on the correct level to apply. If you’ve been very restrictive in handset and network choice you can feasibly add in management controls, but otherwise it’s very hard. Device management packages and auditing controls do exist but you’re really specifying smartphones to do this, which makes the potential security issues that much greater. So are you better off?

The one I would recommend if you can get it through HR is to enable the potential for automatic handset tracking. In this way there’s a real opportunity to get a handset back if it’s stolen, but also serves to strengthen the perception of control. Simply knowing that a handset can be interrogated could serve as an efficient brake on user behaviour on a range of issues. ®

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