3 considerations for securing your mobile devices

Chris Koeneman, senior vice president of sales at MOBI, describes how agencies can balance security and accessibility for mobile devices and data.

For most industries, enterprise mobility security is a top IT priority. For government organizations, it’s absolutely critical. Preventing the latest security threats protects employees and the integrity of sensitive data, but it can be challenging. When it comes to enterprise mobility, there are some common best practices all government agencies should use.

Stay current with security innovations

Keeping up with the latest security innovations must be a priority for both organizations as a whole and their technology teams. To best protect internal data and networks, IT staff have to pay attention to the types of devices connecting to company resources and how often those devices are being updated. In today’s digital landscape, enterprise applications and technology should be designed, implemented and maintained with a mobile-first mindset.

In addition to promoting an attentive enterprise mobility culture, establishing use and purchase agreements with industry leaders guarantees the acquisition of the latest security products and services. By incorporating these cutting-edge solutions, applications and devices are secured and able to maintain the rapid pace of product and software development cycles.

Utilize a complete security solution

Enterprise mobility management (EMM), a holistic approach to securing and enabling employee use of smartphones and tablets, offers a complete security solution that keeps government agency security up-to-date and enforced. EMM addresses security concerns and improves employee productivity by providing tools to perform work-related tasks on mobile devices. Generally, EMM solutions include mobile device management (MDM), mobile application management (MAM) and mobile information management (MIM). According to TechTarget, “MDM focuses on locking down mobile devices, while MAM focuses on controlling which users can access which applications and MIM focuses on allowing only approved applications to access corporate data or transmit it.”

These solutions work regardless of program type, so bring-your-own-device (BYOD), corporate-owned-personally-enabled (COPE), corporate liable (CL) and individual liable (IL) users can all be universally protected. Devices, applications and data are encrypted and secured from unauthorized access, allowing organizations to deploy, delay or prevent operating system security updates enterprisewide. EMM software secures end users at the device level through enrollment. By being enrolled, a company can continuously monitor device policy compliance to ensure only authorized devices and users are able to access sensitive corporate data. A device can be automatically unenrolled, thus eliminating access to company networks and information, if it doesn’t meet agreed-upon requirements or adhere to the enterprise’s mobile policy.

Set up and enforce a dynamic mobile policy

Setting up an official mobile policy structures IT resources and forces mobility compliance across a government organization, providing end-user education should they encounter a security threat. Policies can also be updated to address future threats before they happen, keeping the entire program organized and effectively safeguarded. InformationWeek discovered that after the Department Defense implemented an official policy to certify enterprise applications and devices, their average device security review period dropped from seven months to 45 days.

Government organizations that maintain a well-defined and current mobile policy have higher returns on investment in terms of workforce flexibility, employee responsiveness to customer needs and revenue/profitability attributed to their mobility investments, according to the Enterprise Mobility Foundation. However, there are multiple factors they need to consider before putting one into practice.

Any agency should update its mobile policy only after understanding the full impact any changes can have. Many organizations build unsuccessful or incomplete policies because there is no clear goal or achievement defined prior to implementation. Even with an established end goal, companies need to consistently measure the policy’s effectiveness in order to determine what, if anything, needs to be adjusted or fixed.

Communication when creating policies is paramount to enterprise mobility success. Managers and policymakers must maintain a clear and honest line of communication to end users through a variety of channels to explain in an understandable and concise way how their policy will work. Workforces who comprehend policy decisions understand the intricacies and complexities of the policy, which allows their agencies to identify necessary coaching opportunities and hold employees accountable for adhering to agreed-upon policies.

Ensure your team is on board and involved with your mobile policy

Deliberation and getting things right initially prevents additional costs and confusion later down the line, so when formulating a mobile policy don’t rush to save money or hit predetermined deadlines. Rash action can result in spur-of-the-moment decisions that force bad policies onto end users that may not make sense. Mobile policies by nature must be flexible and involve feedback from the group it’s directing, so taking the time to make sure it contributes to your purpose as a government organization, keeps you productive and addresses problems in real-time to drive adoption and adherence.

Government agencies need to maintain focus on employee needs if they hope to maintain their policy’s relevance and currency moving forward. By scheduling training and regular policy updates, end users feel more involved in enterprise mobility decisions and fewer issues result from rolling out policy changes.

It’s vital that organizations remember their culture and structure mobile policies accordingly. Working with employees to ensure policies fit with existing workflows and offering additional onsite deployment or education for those who are less tech-savvy guarantees a cultural fit that is well received and practiced.

Using mobility best practices and effective policies is important, Citrix found that the public sector experiences nearly 50 times as many cybersecurity incidents as any other industry. In addition, that report uncovered that despite 40 percent of government employees using mobile devices for work, 58 percent state that their agency isn’t ready for enterprise mobility yet, highlighting the struggle many organizations have when it comes to protecting employee and agency data.

The first step in protecting sensitive information is paying attention to what’s going on inside an organization as vigorously as what’s going on externally. Rather than trying to protect everything at a high level, agencies must employ an end-to-end strategy, as security should be centered around the most sought-after and sensitive information. For most organizations, protecting every data point is impractical and unviable financially. It is much easier to instead identify which targets could be threatened if security was breached or bypassed. Enforcing rigid security standards around this data set most effectively mitigates risks and clarifies protective priorities.

Enterprise Mobility Management software offers data encryption and application containerization, allowing government agencies to monitor their data on enrolled devices and restrict downloads and activity based on job role, policy compliance, location and a handful of other criteria. Device authentication secures data, and this software even makes it possible to remotely wipe the sensitive agency data or the device’s data entirely in a worst-case scenario.

Fortifying a government mobility program can be tricky, but by taking proactive steps and maintaining a clear and effective mobile policy, risks and the harm that results can be minimized. Solutions that are implemented with attention and understanding of the habits and needs of your workforce can make mobility an effective tool for any agency.

Chris Koeneman is the senior vice president of sales for MOBI

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