Q&A: Securing mobile apps and data is key to BYOD

October 21st, 2012 | by Aaron Tan
Q&A: Securing mobile apps and data is key to BYOD

Most IT head honchos would cringe at the prospect of allowing employees to use their own personal devices for work. After all, that means giving up the tight control that employers have always had over devices that connect to corporate networks, while facing the risk of corporate data falling into the wrong hands through lost or stolen devices.

Yet, more employees are yearning to use their own personal devices for work. A survey by VMware revealed that over 50 per cent of employees in Singapore already use their own devices for work-related purposes, whether their companies have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy or not.

While there is no doubt that BYOD policies improve employee productivity and offers more convenience – since there is only a single device to carry around for sending e-mail messages to co-workers and loved ones alike – enterprises are now faced with the challenge of securing a much wider pool of personal devices.

Typically, this is done through mobile device management (MDM) suites that provide many of the standard features in PC management software, as well as additional functionality that address the unique needs of mobile devices.

Increasingly, more companies are considering mobile application management (MAM) software that allows specific mobile apps to be managed, secured and distributed by IT departments through enhanced policies applied to individual applications.

As there is a growing need to manage both mobile devices and mobile applications, technology consultancy IDC said the market is forcing the merger of two previously distinct MDM and MAM markets into a new market called mobile enterprise management (MEM) software.

According to IDC, global MEM software revenue totaled US$444.6 million last year. This market, which includes products that offer standalone MDM, standalone MAM, or combined MDM-MAM suites, is expected rake in revenues worth US$1.8 billion by 2016.

In this month’s Q&A with Techgoondu, Jim Watson, vice president and corporate general manager at Good Technology in the Asia-Pacific region, argues that MDM is becoming a commodity, and that the future of enterprise mobility lies in MAM.

Q: With MAM, would you say that enterprises would no longer need to secure mobile devices as much as they did in the past?

A: MDM is becoming a commodity. We compare MDM to airbags in the car industry. When airbags first came out, they were cool – people had different airbags and when you bought a car, you actually paid extra for the airbags. Now, every car manufacturer has airbags.

From an MDM perspective, we do what everybody else does, but we call MDM mobile data management, so we are interested in managing the data. Locking down the device is not hard to do from a security perspective. Locking down the data is really the key issue. I think you’ll see a shakeout in the MDM industry. We’re seeing some MDM companies offer six to 12 months of free subscriptions, but how do you make money out of free?

“BYOD is bringing new nuances to the market with HR and legal issues.”

–Jim Watson, Good Technology Asia-Pacific vice president and corporate general manager

We’ve approached the mobile applications market from three perspectives. First, secure e-mail. The number one problem that we address is how do you secure non-BlackBerry devices? Good Technology is an 11-year-old company with very similar security to BlackBerry – we own over 70 patents around our security architecture.

Second, we’ve taken the underpinnings of our architecture and published that to third-party vendors through Good Dynamics. Today, an employee might take an attachment, send it to his personal e-mail, download that attachment and put it on Dropbox in the cloud, only to have that hacked when Dropbox gets compromised. With Good Dynamics, you can enforce how that employee manages that data so they can only open certain attachments and third-party applications.

Thirdly, we’re helping companies secure and manage their data and applications, create their own enterprise app stores and wrap their apps through AppCentral, which we just bought and are in the midst of integrating with Good Dynamics.

Q: What are your thoughts on BYOD? When does BYOD make sense to companies and when does it not make sense, especially among enterprises with existing enterprise mobility policies for corporate issued devices?

A: BYOD adoption ranges from zero to 100 per cent, and it really depends on the enterprises. First of all, they have to establish a strategy, in terms of what they will allow and what markets they are in. In heavily regulated markets, you’ll see less adoption of BYOD because of concerns over security. But we believe within six months, 50 per cent of enterprises will adopt some form of BYOD, and there are two reasons for that.

One, it has become expensive to manage these devices. We have clients with 10,000 BlackBerry devices that they’re managing through SingTel, and there’s a cost associated with that. Employers are also trying to get out of managing smartphones, whether it’s giving you a monthly allowance or paying for your device. Second, we believe it’s going to be the norm for employees to go from job to job, expecting to use their own personal devices.

Companies have to get their strategy and agreements in place, such as the legal and HR requirements in addition to the IT requirements. We have a client who is allowing his contractors to bring their own devices, but the contractors are now charging the client extra two hours a day because they’re checking e-mail at night. Also, what happens when you wipe out my photos on my device? BYOD is bringing new nuances to the market with HR and legal issues.

Q: Based on your interactions with customers, are the conversations around BYOD driven largely by C-level executives or from the ground-up?

A: It starts from the C-level but it’s the business units that are driving adoption because in order to attract and retain the best employees, they’ve got to be progressive. Then, it falls on IT to see how they’re going to do that securely.

Q: While more MDM vendors are moving into MAM, security vendors like Symantec, with their acquisition of Nukona, are also eyeing a slice of the pie. How do you see the market playing out?

A: When you see a company like Good Technology with the success we’ve been blessed with, we’re going to attract competitors, which is a compliment on what we’ve been doing. I think you’ll see security and infrastructure vendors enter the market either through acquisitions or organically. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen our trajectory increase dramatically, and we’ve got a pretty good head start. It’s much harder to enter a market that’s not your mainstream market, and our mainstream market is mobility management. The security vendors tend to be tied to infrastructure security rather than mobile security. We’ll definitely see some competition and hopefully that’ll help to raise everyone’s valuations in the marketplace.

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