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Three Simple Ways to Boost Mobile Device Security

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Joseph Bradley
Joseph Bradley |  July 17, 2013 at 12:49 pm PST |  Cisco Blog Mobility

The explosion in business mobility is transforming our companies in profound—and sometimes challenging—ways. One of the most vexing issues is security.

Recently, I came across a Wharton article predicting  that by 2015, more Americans will access the Internet through mobile  devices than PCs. From open data to an increase in government-accessed  information, this sweeping trend raises questions about the true  security of mobile networks and devices. But how can an organization  support the infusion of wireless devices into employees’ lives without  opening the door to heightened security risks?

One way to begin increasing security on mobile devices is to follow three simple, yet underutilized, precautions:

Prescribe passwords. In corporate America, we often joke that  our password is “password.” It’s funny until you consider that for the  majority of mobile device users, any password (even “password”) would be a leap forward in security. According to a Harris Interactive survey commissioned by CTIA,  which was referenced in the Wharton article, less than half of all  wireless device owners use passwords or personal identification numbers  (PINs) on their handhelds. Considering the very real threat from  cybercriminals, smartphones and tablets must be safeguarded with  antivirus software and password protection.

Once established, password information must be managed. In a global McAfee survey,  15 percent of the respondents said they keep password information on  their phones. Over half of those surveyed said they share password  information with others. Keeping passwords confidential can help  eliminate risk associated with devices falling into the wrong hands.

Embrace BYOD. Not long ago, IT decision makers could afford to  indulge their fear of the unknown and drag their heels on BYOD (bring  your own device). Those days are gone. In a recent blog post,  I discussed the reality—BYOD is here to stay. With more than 80 percent  of companies having some BYOD capability, businesses should look to  implement mature strategies and policies that address the challenges  BYOD may present. This type of “Comprehensive BYOD” strategy should include specific security features for mobile devices, including  mandatory password protection and remote wipe, which enables IT leaders  to clear sensitive company data from devices. Such solutions will  create a win-win for employees, IT leaders, and their companies.

Architect the architecture—for security. Companies can  increase their security features by unifying wired, wireless, and  virtual private networks (VPNs) into a single, highly secure network  infrastructure. A unified network provides system wide visibility on who  and what is on the network; monitors access to confidential  information; and assesses real-time threats. It also simplifies the  design and implementation of security policies throughout the network.  Additional options are available for businesses seeking to bolster  security across more disparate networks.

Security fears may be an inhibitor to business mobility, but they are  far from a deal-breaker. With the right security policies and  solutions, mobile business devices promise tremendous benefits for all  organizations. And that includes yours.

Are you interested in learning more about mobile security? Follow @cisco_Mobility and join the conversation, #CiscoMobility.

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