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Tips for developing a mobile device management strategy

Make simple, easy-to-follow rules on personal device use

SAN FRANCISCO - Caught between wanting to enable consumer mobile device technology in the workplace and securing data, IT leaders are increasingly faced with making tough and sometimes unpopular decisions.

For example, when developing mobile device management (MDM) policies, one of the less popular decisions is whether to wipe an employee's personal device after it's lost or the employee leaves the company.

Dave Malcom, chief information security officer of Hyatt Hotels, makes sure that's one company policy that's written in bold print and in all caps.

"LOST PERSONALLY-OWNED DEVICES OR PERSONALLY-OWNED DEVICES BELONGING TO A TERMINATED EMPLOYEE ARE SUBJECT TO REMOTE WIPE," he told several hundred attendees of the CITE conference here.

"I'm going to wipe it," he reiterated.

While not a popular policy, it's one many that IT leaders have adopted as the only full-proof way of ensuring corporate data is not exposed when employees use personally owned consumer technology for work.

Hyatt adopted a five-page list of policies after it began allowing employees to use their mobile devices for work last year.

Other policies include:

  • Never store confidential corporate data prohibited on an unencrypted device.
  • Never store any consumer credit card data on any mobile device.
  • Users must provide access to personally owned devices if they become part of a workplace investigation or they become subject to a legal hold in a civil litigation case.
  • Employees are prohibited from conducting Hyatt business through the use of personal accounts, such as text messaging and email.

Prior to its bring-your-own-device policy (BYOD), Hyatt workers were prohibited from using their personally owned technology, although that didn't mean it wasn't happening.

"We rolled out [Microsoft] ActiveSync and we started seeing devices that we knew weren't ours enrolling in ActiveSync," Malcom said. "So we said, 'Let's stop burying our head in the sand and start addressing the problem and start securing them.' "

Like most organizations, Hyatt's BYOD policies are in flux. For example, due to more stringent privacy regulations, Hyatt doesn't allow the use of personal devices in some foreign countries, and has instead required employees to use corporate-issued Blackberries.

Tony Lalli, infrastructure architect for the Bank of New York Mellon, said his company, like others, has been on a roller coaster ride since the iPad 2 was released last year.

The bank's sales staff clamored for it in order to get rid of bulky paper binders used to pitch financial products to high-wealth clients. The iPad offered simple but powerful content distribution and a rich media method for reaching perspective customers, Lalli said.

But, Lalli almost immediately ran into problem attempting to secure data.

"That was our first attempt to secure devices. Ever have iTunes blocked on your network and try to activate an iPad? It doesn't work too well," he said.

The bank chose to move employees from the iPhone Configuration Utility to a SaaS-based version of FibreLink's Mobile Device Management utility .

The bank then deployed a full device profile with Microsoft 's ActiveSync Email, which bought the bank time to perform an analysis of document distribution options; it chose a cloud -based and centrally managed model, where all content use was pre-approved.

Employees are allowed to use any iOS mobile device they want. Lalli said he continues to evaluate Android devices, but that they are "not quite there yet" as far as employee uptake.

Unlike Hyatt, Bank of New York Mellon centrally manages all data that goes out to personally-owned devices. As Lalli put it, you can wipe a device, but then an employee could just download ActiveSync and be right back on the corporate network and IT would never know it.

"This is the comment I get all the time, 'I can go to Starbucks and just click one thing and I'm on the network. Why do I have to go through all this security to get onto our network? And, by the way, if you keep doing that, I'm not going to use your network," Lalli said. "That's the message I get from internal users."

Lalli said he wants to be able to manage the data from where it is and not from what device it might be on. While they've not completely achieved that goal, that's the end strategy.

"I'm vendor agnostic," he said. "We'd like to be able to track our data where it goes, and who cares where the devices go."

The bank still does not permit "highly confidential" information in the cloud, Lalli said, since closing the security hole should always be "the highest priority of any BYOD strategy."

Other key considerations:

  • You will have to track multiple devices per employee
  • Whether to wipe or block a specific device and not a user
  • Whether to use a cloud-hosting service or an internally based SOA-model; Cloud is a faster to deploy.

Lalli said the MDM market remains immature, and that it's important to test capabilities above and beyond what base MDM applications can offer.

Brian Katz, director of mobility engineering for global infrastructure services at pharmaceutical company, said his company had also deployed MDM. But, Katz said he prefers to look at least two years ahead, with the end goal being not which devices to enable, but how to get the company's greatest asset, corporate data, out to end-users.

"Is it BYOD? Do you spend more money because you have to manage those devices, so what you save in not paying for them you then spend in trying to manage them?" he said. "One of the biggest things is creating an acceptable use policy."

A use policy should not only be about what employees are prohibited from doing with mobile devices, but what they can do. "If you secure your data, it doesn't matter who owns the device," Katz added.

Dion Hinchliffe, executive vice president of strategy at the Dachis Group, agreed with Katz.

Hinchliffe, whose company develops software to measure corporate social network performance, believes MDM is too "heavy weight."

Educating employees on good data security is as important as developing hardened security measures. Companies need to establish simple, easy to follow rules, such as not allowing employees to store data in the cloud.

"We have to get into the business of emergent change. We don't want to control it all," he said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com .

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com .

Read more about mobile and wireless in Computerworld's Mobile and Wireless Topic Center.


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