The iPhone has started to unseat more corporate-friendly mobile gadgets such as the Blackberry as the device most often used in a business setting. Here are some steps IT can take to help limit the security risks of users’ smartphone of choice.
Once the standard for enterprise users, Blackberry devices are starting to lose sway to their Apple and Android competitors, according to a recent survey from the Enterprise Management Association.
Among the 243 smartphone users in large companies polled, 30% of Blackberry users said they hoped to switch to a new device within the next year.
Furthermore, just 16% of Blackberry users said they were “completely satisfied” with their smartphone, compared to 44% of iPhone users.
Analysts say user choice is becoming a big factor in what devices IT supports. In many companies, IT has started allowing users to bring their own personal devices to use for work. And other research shows many users will do that even if IT doesn’t allow it.
In most cases, when employees use a personal device, it’s an iPhone or iPad, the most popular smartphone and tablet computer, respectively.
That puts extra pressure on IT, as those devices come with new security challenges that may not have been present in more business-oriented devices like the Blackberry.
Fortunately, Apple has made some progress in allowing companies to secure their devices for business use. If employees in your company are using iPhones and iPads for work, here are some steps your IT department can take to improve security in the latest crop of iOS devices:
- Avoid syncing sensitive business data — A new feature in Apple’s iOS 5 is a cloud service called iCloud, which allows users to store data in the cloud and sync it across their mobile devices and home computers. That can be a problem for companies because it may mean sensitive data is sitting unprotected on another organization’s servers, or could be accessed by hacking an employee’s home computer. IT may consider requiring users to disable iCloud if they want to use their phones to work with company information.
- Disable voice command on locked phones — One of the most talked-about features in the new iPhone 4S is Siri, a voice-control application that allows users to perform almost any function on the phone simply by talking to it. The problem for security: By default, Siri can be used even when the phone is locked, which could allow unauthorized parties to access email or other documents on a lost or stolen phone. That access can be disabled by activating “Passcode Lock” under the “General” section of Siri’s settings.
- Take advantage of MDM support — Apple has added support for mobile device management (MDM) tools to iOS devices. Third-party MDM software can allow businesses to remotely manage fleets of iPhones, and keep them secure by remotely setting policies, controlling application roll-outs and applying patches.
- Lock down email — The iPhone’s email application allows users to integrate different accounts and manage them in the same location. That could let employees read and respond to corporate emails from unsecured, web-based personal accounts. IT can avoid that by configuring the email app to keep business mail separate from personal accounts.
- Train users — In addition to taking advantage of new technical controls, another way to prevent many security issues is making sure the people using mobile devices are well informed. IT can train users on topics such as avoiding loss or theft of the device, the dangers of unsecured WiFi connections, and staying away from potentially vulnerable apps.