BYOD and MDM – What Does It All Mean For Enterprise Network Security

Date September 13, 2012 Author Comments Leave your thoughts
BYOD provision and management solutions

BYOD & MDM – What does it all mean?

So, with a great deal of buzz surrounding the BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) trend and the subsequent need for enterprise networks to adopt a more sensitive approach to MDM (Mobile Device Management), I thought I’d shed some light on the subject, its benefits, and the potentially problematic areas that have IT managers shaking in their boots…or not, as the case may be.

Before all that though, let us take a look at some of the benefits, which are well worth mentioning –with employees using their own equipment they are in turn paying for most, if not all, of the hardware costs as well as the additional costs which accompany many of the contracts associated with their devices, making it a very attractive option to many companies. Plus, of course, the added luxury of using his or her own shiny new tablet or laptop at home or on the move over the outdated company machines in the office, is likely to make any employee feel slightly more chipper about writing up that last minute report (…maybe).

So, with workforce satisfaction and productivity (many are putting in more hours at home and on the move than was previously the case) on the up and employees footing the bill, on first consideration one might have great difficulty in finding any negatives at all.

However, with potentially hundreds of employees or students bringing one, two or even three different devices into the office or onto campus every day, this seemingly technologically utopian vision becomes somewhat more Orwellian. The issues faced by organisations in tracking the plethora of devices gaining access to the network and more worryingly, the often sensitive data and information that is being viewed, used and shared every second, are all too real.

And, the plot thickens – there are surely not many among us who would be agreeable to handing over access to our web-browsing habits or take any joy at all in being told what, where, when, how and for how long we could view certain items of web-content on our own smartphone or laptop. However, from an organisational point-of-view, the requirement for passcode protection on all devices, as well additional security and monitoring features, are surely a must.

At this point the sphere of BYOD becomes explicitly merged with that of MDM, as those in charge of the enterprise network must begin to sensitively reconsider their terms of access, its limitations, allowances and compliance, as well as being sympathetic to the potentially more severe headache of having to enforce it all. Add to that the problems that may very well arise in the protection and retrieval of data (perhaps if an employee leaves or is let go, or worse – loses their questionably ‘protected’ device) and the result is a minefield of red tape, policy enforcement and security woes.

So, what does this all mean? Well, the benefits are clear – productive, efficient, cost-effective…the list goes on – less so however, is the way in which to manage such a liberal approach to enterprise IT. Network management will want to re-gain control by streamlining their policies specific to provisioning, security and inventory in order stay afloat in what is fast becoming an exponentially more volatile ocean of client and user expectations.

The requirement for better overall visibility and control of company data and network resources, if not important in the past, has become nothing short of imperative, and help is here with a number of vendors offering a timely solution – mobile device management software.

So, how does it work? Here comes a quick dummies guide (apologies)… pre-set policies and provisioning are put in place by an administrator, defining usage by the type of device, various operating systems and enabling users to be ‘grouped’ specific to their level of access, as well as a host of other optional settings.

Once these are set it is fair to say that much of the hard work is done, as the policy management system begins to enforce policies whilst monitoring the network. New arrivals, requiring guest access to the network for the first time, are directed through a portal and assigned an ID which can then be monitored by an IT department who can take subsequent action should the user breach any of the predefined terms of use. This ultimately hands the power back to the enterprise, which can revoke the rights of any user who is deemed to be a security risk.

Of course, this is a basic overview and in actuality the options are far more extensive, with policy managers being able to dig deeper into the aspects of usage, such as device profiling, levels of access, privileges, priorities and operating system specific capabilities. The BYOD trend, it seems, is here to stay, but with provisions in place for the enterprise to embrace it with open arms, the future might feel a little less daunting for IT managers and policy makers.

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Author Gregg Meade

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