Five trends driving the need for better mobile security

Mformation Chief Marketing Officer Matt Bancroft outlines five mobile security trends keeping CSOs up at night

The pace of mobilization within many enterprises is increasing rapidly. Enterprises of all sizes and types are finding that going mobile can significantly increase the productivity of their employees, bringing added flexibility and cost reductions and helping many companies gain a competitive edge in their market.

In a survey of CIOs of top-500 companies undertaken by independent research firm Coleman Parkes, 81 percent of the CIOs interviewed reported that they have seen significant productivity increases from their mobile investments, and the same percentage expect further significant productivity increases from new mobile products over the next five years.

It comes as no surprise, then, that enterprises are providing a growing number of management and staff with mobile devices equipped to access corporate data and applications.

In addition, enterprises are embarking on initiatives that will significantly increase their use of mobile applications. As mobile and wireless solutions become increasingly important to an organization's overall business strategy, they are also becoming increasingly important in an organization's IT strategy. Security issues consistently top the list of IT concerns - nearly eight out of 10 of the CIOs surveyed indicated concerns about the security implications for their company's corporate data of the proliferation of sophisticated mobile devices among employees.

A number of trends are driving the need for better mobile device management and security. The combination of an increasingly varied set of mobile devices with increasing memory, power and portability, combined with a trend toward more powerful, IP-based network infrastructures, is creating a fertile ground for the migration of Internet-based threats into the mobile space. At the same time, new and powerful mobile applications are being launched and security threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These are among the issues keeping CIOs and CSOs up at night.

Trend 1: More powerful and less expensive mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous and are as irreplaceable as any PC or laptop, significantly increasing the risks from loss and theft. Mobile handsets are becoming more powerful with each new release, to the point where the newest and smartest mobile devices are more like handheld computers than cellular phones. And with every product release, the devices have more capabilities and cost less. As an example, the 8 GB iPhone 3G coming out this month will cost a mere US$199, compared to the original 8 GB iPhone that cost US$599 when it was first introduced last year and US$399 just a few months ago. The same trend is playing out with other smart devices, including BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices.

Network providers have made their pricing models more attractive to enterprises as well. Rather than per-minute, per-transaction or per-byte pricing, which is difficult to budget for and therefore very unattractive to enterprises, data services are being offered in attractive pricing bundles, including "all-you-can-eat" packages.

With this sort of power in such a small and portable package, many executives and managers are finding their mobile handset to be as irreplaceable as any PC or laptop. Unlike PCs and laptops, however, mobile devices carry an equally significant amount of information in a much smaller and more portable package that is incredibly easy to misplace, lose or steal, significantly increasing the risk to the enterprise.

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