How can business take mobile security to the next level?

As the modern workforce continues to become more mobile, new IT challenges and demands have arisen, placing pressure on the IT department to adapt its security procedures.

End-users now work on a whole host of devices and in a multitude of locations. But one thing remains the same; all of them want access to data regardless of device or place.

Because of this, the need for strong security is more evident than ever. The challenge for IT managers is how to deliver access to data securely. They have to put systems in place that will not only consider user data security, but also allow workers to be flexible in how they use technology to get the job done.

The consumerisation of the working landscape

The latest versions of the Kindle Fire and iPad Air being released drew attention to the growing consumer interest in new devices, and also the levels of sophistication the devices and software running on them have reached. BlackBerry has also had a variety of announcements recently about its CEO and possible bids.

It could even be said that the Canadian company, at least in its current guise, might not be around by this time next year, becoming more an application-focused (rather than device-focused) outfit.

These changes reflect how consumerisation and the complexity of devices have transformed the working landscape. A wide range of mobile devices are now available to employees to use for a variety of different tasks.

Many users choose devices because they are convenient and for businesses to keep employees engaged, happy and productive it is important that IT departments are as flexible as possible to allow this in the workplace.

This is true in both the public and private sector. To help it overcome mobility challenges, the Government and the CESG, the government's authority on information security, has recently updated an End User Devices Security and Configuration Guidance policy to reflect the market's desire for flexibility around end-user devices.

This policy describes how devices such as smartphones, laptops and devices can be configured to help enterprises meet its users' needs and expectations, with security recommendations and good practice. This policy also highlights key items for consideration when deploying devices to users.

The business world post-BlackBerry

For the first time, policy clears the use of Android devices for government work, which has previously been an area which only BlackBerry could play in.

This is interesting as our recent research suggests that after BlackBerry, Windows Phone is the most trusted mobile platform among large enterprise, with only 20 per cent of IT managers considering it a security risk.

However, although this policy helps guide its organisations as to how to adopt different devices, it still limits them and seems to miss the point on availability. Whether in the public or private sector, users should be able to choose devices that are convenient to them.

This begs the question, is there a better way to approach mobile working? And is there a way in which to overcome security concerns, should businesses move to the cloud and more virtualisation solutions?

In short the answer is yes. IT decision makers need to take a step back and look at how to manage users, rather than the devices they use. IT will have to shift towards being more service centric and focus less on purchasing and configuring devices and operating systems.

The first step in achieving this would be to separate applications, data and users from their devices. This will help it to move towards a device agnostic environment and concentrate on the delivery of services to end-users as opposed to focusing on supporting platforms and devices.

Ultimately, IT departments need to tailor their services, mobile or not, around the end-users to ensure that they are working in an environment that enables them to be as productive as possible.

At the same time businesses need to create a strategy that is secure for mobile devices, no matter what users want to use them for. Devices, after all, are no longer luxuries, but strategic business tools.

Keith Turnbull is chief development officer at AppSense.