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Cloud Computing and Device Security: The “Always Able” Era

Cloud Computing and Device Security: The “Always Able” Era

Blog Article Published: 04/29/2011

By Mark Bregman, CTO of Symantec

Device Proliferation: Mobility and Security in the Cloud

Chief Information Security Officers know instinctively that the world under their purview is undergoing a shift every bit as significant as the rise of the World Wide Web more than 15 years ago. The demand on our workforce to be ever more productive is driving us to rethink how we use technology to get the job done. Today’s workers expect and demand smart, mobile, powerful devices that place the capabilities of a PC in the palm of the hand.

In this new environment, IT departments are faced with a hard choice: remain committed to an outdated model that limits productivity by placing stringent restrictions on the technology workers use or look for ways to implement new policies that give employees the tools they need to be “always able” while keeping company information safe.

This change in attitude has been driven more by the cloud than many IT decision makers may realize. For enterprise users to do their jobs, they must be able to create, retrieve, manipulate and store massive amounts of data. In the past, the PC was best tool for this job because it could store and process data locally. But today, storing data in the cloud sets device makers free to create a wide range of computing products – from highly portable to highly stylish and more. Increasingly, these devices can be used to create everything from office documents to rich multimedia content, driving demand for even smarter and more powerful devices.

The loss of traditional security controls with the mobile devices combined with cloud driven services results in the need for a new approach to security. According to findings from security firm Mocana, 47% of organizations do not believe they can adequately manage the risks introduced by mobile devices, and more than 45% of organizations say security concerns are one of the biggest obstacles to the proliferation of smart devices. Organizations now must cope with workers introducing personal devices on the enterprise cloud and accessing workplace technology for personal purposes. For IT, the ultimate goal is protecting data by defining who should access what data and defining rights management for viewing and manipulating that data.

At the 30,000 feet level, users demand the flexibility to choose the devices they want, which means IT is tasked with enforcing governance over those devices to ensure corporate data is protected. To allow for uniform enforcement, administrators need the ability to centrally define and distribute security policies to all devices – using what else but the cloud – to secure data at rest or in motion.

To this end, there are five important guidelines enterprises should consider as they reshape IT policy to enable mobile devices to function seamlessly and securely in the cloud:

Take an inventory of all devices – You can’t protect or manage what you can’t see. This begins with device inventory to gain visibility across multiple networks and into the cloud. After taking stock, implement continuous security practices, such as scanning for current security software, operating system patches, and hardware information, e.g., model and serial number.

Device security equals cloud security – Since they are essentially access points to the cloud, mobile devices need the same multi-layer protection we apply to other business endpoints, including:

• Firewalls protecting the device and its contents by port and by protocol.

• Antivirus protection spanning multiple attack vectors, which might include MMS (multimedia messaging service), infrared, Bluetooth, and e-mail.

• Real-time protection, including intrusion prevention with heuristics to block "zero-day" attacks for unpublished signatures, and user and administrator alerts for attacks in progress.

• Antispam for the growing problem of short messaging service spam.

Unified protection – Security and management for mobile devices should be integrated into the overall enterprise security and management framework and administered in the same way – ideally using compatible solutions and unified policies. This creates operational efficiencies, but more importantly, it ensures consistent protection across your infrastructure, whether it be on premises or in the cloud. Security policy should be unified across popular mobile operating systems such as Symbian, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Android or Apple iOS, and their successors. And non-compliant mobile devices should be denied network access until they have been scanned, and if necessary patched, upgraded, or remediated.

Cloud-based Encryption – Millions of mobile devices used in the U.S. alone “go missing” every year. To protect against unauthorized users gaining access to valuable corporate data, encryption delivered in the cloud is necessary to protect the date that resides there. As an additional layer of security, companies should ensure they have a remote-wipe capability for unrecovered devices.

Scalability – Threats that target mobile devices are the same for small businesses and enterprises. As businesses grow, they require security management technology that is automated, policy-based, and scalable so that the infrastructure can accommodate new mobile platforms and services as they are introduced. With this information-centric framework in place, companies can take full advantage of the benefits offered by the cloud. At the same time, having the right policies and technologies in place provides confidence that data – the new enterprise currency – is secure from unauthorized access.

Combined, the five guidelines provide a strong baseline policy, which should give IT and business leaders confidence in the cloud and the mobile devices it enables.

Mark Bregman is Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Symantec, responsible for the Symantec Research Labs, Symantec Security Response and shared technologies, emerging technologies, architecture and standards, localization and secure coding, and developing the technology strategy for the company.

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