Without making too much of the analogy to seagoing vessels, overseeing your company’s armada of iPads and Androids is somewhat like managing a fleet of ships. In the case of the US Navy, for example, there are over 400 carriers, cruisers, subs, and destroyers spread out all over the world. In the case of most small- and medium-sized businesses, there are no such company vehicles.
There are, however, lots of smartphones, tablets, PDAs, and laptops, and managing them takes some effort. You need to know which employees are using which devices, how much they cost, how well they work (the devices, not the employees), and other administrative details that Human Resources often struggle to record in simple spreadsheets.
A popular solution for companies or large IT departments is to employ a Mobile Device Management (MDM) application that makes it easy to procure, deploy, and inventory your stakeholders’ electronic devices.
But please take note: The most serious challenge you’ll face when it comes to managing your fleet of mobile devices is not tracking them, but securing them.
As was the case with several US warships in 2017, mishaps can occur -- and when they occur in relation to mobile device cybersecurity, the damage to your business can be extreme, both in terms of losses and reputation.
And while everyone agrees that a mobile workforce improves productivity, it’s critical that your cybersecurity scheme defends the devices at all times. One way an MDM application can help is by protecting company data, which is often at greater risk when it’s being accessed and transmitted from outside your office.
Everyday examples include accessing the Internet in a coffee shop, airport bar, or hotel lobby where WiFi networks aren’t guaranteed to be hacker-free. But with MDM as a part of your cybersecurity program, any data sent to and from a protected device will be encrypted, all but ensuring your employees connect to your servers as safely as if they were doing so inside your office.
Having anti-malware applications installed on your users’ mobile devices will protect them from viruses, spyware, and ransomware, but that’s only one aspect of keeping malware at bay. Utilizing the simple security features of an MDM tool is another, and it will provide an extra layer of protection against online dangers.
For instance, most MDM tools will block unauthorized, potentially perilous applications from being installed on your users’ devices, and will alert you whenever one has been “jailbroken” (Apple) or “rooted” (Android).
This is an important function because when a smartphone or tablet has been jailbroken or rooted, the manufacturer’s software restrictions are removed. This makes the device much more susceptible to infection by mobile malware like Judy.
The jailbreak/rooting alerts are helpful for businesses with Bring Your Own Device policies, which permit employees to use their personal devices for business purposes. This can present unique challenges to IT departments in that they may not know everything they otherwise would about the devices’ security history, or about the users themselves who may be more tempted to tinker with devices they own.
In addition to inventory management, data security, and malware protection, an MDM implementation will help you secure users’ emails, their browser settings, and the applications they download.
It will also deliver all software upgrades on time, make sure data is viewed and transmitted in compliance with regulations like HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley, and even cover you in cases of lost or stolen devices -- thanks to a feature that allows you to locate them with GPS technology and/or delete data remotely.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of room for improvement if your organization’s mobile devices are being tracked by HR or a department supervisor in an Excel spreadsheet. Fortunately there are numerous reliable vendors offering affordable, straightforward Mobile Device Management solutions that work.
But if you’re a particular breed of business owner -- one who’s not entirely familiar with enterprise software like MDM apps, or who’s dealing with a large and fast-growing fleet of mobile devices -- you should enlist the help of a Managed Services Provider like Charles IT -- one that handles cybersecurity for all aspects of business.