Managing Your Mobile Devices

With the increasing use of mobile devices—particularly the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend—how can a small business make sure its intellectual property is secure?

After all, if an employee’s device is allowed to remotely connect to your company’s network, you’ve created a potential back door that could be used to raid your data. Many devices also have the ability to sync large amounts of proprietary information, including customer names and contacts, making that data portable outside of the office.

Mobile devices increase productivity and are convenient, but there are risks. Some industries like financial services and health care also have specific security regulations they have to follow. It’s critical that you know your exposure—and take steps to protect yourself.

Basic Defense

Here are two simple policies to implement for all mobile devices that you allow to access your small business data. Have each employee sign an agreement stating that these policies will be followed in order for that employee to have access and connectivity to your business data.

» A screen lock must be used on all devices that connect to your network. Every mobile device and operating system has this feature.  After a device hasn’t been used for a certain amount of time, it goes to “sleep.” To wake it up, you can require either a code or a “swipe pattern” to unlock the device.  This is a very basic security feature, but it does provide some protectionif the device is lost or stolen.

» Every device’s operating system must be updated regularly. These updates often include security fixes, and it is necessary to update regularly to remain secure.

In addition to the policies, conduct a brief class that makes each user aware of the potential risks associated with using the mobile devices. Often, awareness will create a greater diligence toward protecting the data.

Of course, policies and training do not really give you control.  So what tangible things can a small business do that will create control
and security?

Using Apple’s Find iPhone

Since the iPhone and iPad are so widely used, you might look at their Find iPhone feature, a simple, built-in application that offers some nice security features. It requires the use of iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage service, so it will be hard to dictate to employees bringing their own iPhones. But you can at least educate your iPhone users about the feature so each individual can use it with their own devices.

Here’s how it works: All devices sharing an iCloud account (iPhones and iPads) are “findable” by every other device attached to that iCloud as long as they provide the appropriate security credentials.

There are some very useful features with this application, including remote wipe and remote lock. So if the device is lost or stolen, you can use another device sharing that iCloud to perform the remote lock or wipe. Within a few seconds, the application also will display the physical location of all devices sharing the iCloud. This could be very useful for a small business with remote or traveling users. The devices need to be turned on and connected to the Internet for this application to function.

It’s also a convenient feature if you can’t find your iPhone or iPad, but you know it’s in your house or car. You can use Find iPhone to make the missing device play a sound so you can find it.

Third-Party Solutions

So what do you do if your employees can’t or won’t use iCloud and Find iPhone? Or what if their devices run on Android or other mobile operating systems?

To truly gain control over the security of the mobile devices used in your network, you will need to leverage third-party applications. These can be expensive, but the cost is a necessary expense for the security and peace of mind. With these applications, you can truly centralize control, set password policies, remotely lock or wipe a device, dictate what applications are installed, control encryption of data and more.  Here are a few of the top rated third-party vendors:

» AirWatch (

» Good Technology (

» BoxTone (

Several of the major antivirus players also offer mobile device management options:

» McAfee

» Symantec

» Trend Micro

The landscape of mobile device management continues to rapidly evolve. It is impossible to ignore the productivity enhancements these devices offer, but knowing the risks is important to protecting your small business.