George Mehok Quoted in Crain's Cleveland Article
Companies' mobile dos, don'ts lists growing
With more devices in the workplace, firms' policies are more detailed
Three years ago, if a company had a policy regarding how its employees should use their mobile devices, it consisted of maybe a few pages, max.
Now some companies that work with mobile device management firm Vox Mobile Inc. of Independence have policies that are 10 or 12 pages long.
The influx of so many different high-powered mobile devices has made life more complex for the people charged with managing them, according to several information technology experts in Northeast Ohio.
Over the past two years, many local businesses that previously issued nothing but company-owned BlackBerrys have started letting employees use iPhones, iPads and Android phones, too.
Thus, they've got more devices to secure and support. And their employees have toys with all sorts of capabilities that can be abused and misused.
Making matters even more difficult, many businesses are starting to let employees use their own smart phones and tablet computers, as opposed to company-owned devices, to tap into corporate networks that often contain sensitive data. More than 70% of Vox Mobile's clients do so already or are moving in that direction, said Jeff Fuggit, vice president of marketing for the company.
“This is a tidal wave,” he said of the “bring your own device” trend.
Erecting a "virtual barrier'
Companies aren't about to stop using the latest consumer gadgets, given how popular and powerful they are. Instead, they've had to figure out how to mitigate the problems that come with them.
After years of using nothing but BlackBerrys, Safeguard Properties of Valley View started supporting other devices about a year ago and now is letting some employees access the corporate network with their own mobile devices, said George Mehok, chief information officer for the company. Safeguard inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties.
The company, which works with a lot of banks, had to be cautious about letting employees access sensitive data on devices they own, Mr. Mehok said. To protect that information, on each device Safeguard installs Good Technology-brand software that is designed to create a virtual barrier between corporate data and personal data.
“We have an obligation to protect our clients' data. It would not be possible without something like Good Technology,” he said.
Good Technology Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., is one of several companies that sell software with the ability to segregate corporate data from personal on mobile devices, which makes it easier to secure sensitive information and erase it if a device is lost.
Those products are starting to become popular among larger companies, and for good reason, said Brian Stein, president and chief operating officer of mobile strategy firm Pervasive Path Consulting LLC of Solon. Companies trying to manage mobile devices with software that can't make that distinction could run into problems if, say, an employee loses a smart phone only to find it later — after their employer has used the software to erase everything on it.
“If you wipe somebody's pictures of their kids ... they're going to be pretty upset,” he said.
The root of the problem
Revol Wireless of Independence aims to start installing some kind of mobile device management software on the Android smart phones that some Revol employees now use, said Jim Bryson, manager of infrastructure for the wireless carrier.
The company also aims to create a mobile device policy, but it won't do so until it starts installing the device management software, he said. Without the software, Revol has no way to enforce the policies Mr. Bryson wants to create, such as one that would prohibit employees from “rooting” their Android phones. That process lets users change the way the phones operate, which could pose security risks, he said. IPhones and iPads can be tampered with, too, through a process called jailbreaking.
Some mobile device management software can detect when a phone has been rooted or jailbroken, Mr. Bryson said.
“You're essentially giving anyone ... access to everything on the phone,” he said.
No such process exists for the BlackBerry, a device that made it “very easy to lock down devices and enforce policy,” he said.
Being able to remotely wipe data from employee iPhones, iPads and Androids minimizes the risk that someone might find sensitive data by rooting or jailbreaking a lost device, according to Karen Anzuini, chief information officer for Cleveland law firm Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP.
Thus, it is “very important for people to let us know immediately if someone loses the device,” Ms. Anzuini said.
Broadening the number of devices employees can use has created a few issues for Benesch, she said. For one, the number of calls to Benesch's information technology help desk has gone up by roughly 10% to 15%, she estimated. Plus, the law firm's network has been strained at times by the sheer number of devices trying to access the law firm's email system at the same time, she said.
Benesch's wireless network also does a lot of heavy lifting, which is why the law firm late last year installed a second network that employees at its Cleveland office can use for personal reasons.
“There are people who want to be able to stream Pandora (music service) or whatever at the office,” she said.
To download or not to download
Using a company device to stream Pandora or watch movies on Netflix after work is fine so long as employers aren't stuck with data charges afterward, said Revol's Mr. Bryson, who used to work for Vox Mobile and briefly worked for Good Technology.
“There's got to be something in the policy to call that out,” he said.
Some company policies specify which applications employees can and cannot download, said Nate Kurash, account executive for Bennett Adelson, an IT services firm and mobile software developer in Independence.
Companies such as Verizon provide services that let businesses set up their own app stores, where they privately can give employees access to custom software and commercial apps they might need for work purposes, Mr. Kurash said.
Companies that let employees use Android phones also may want to regulate the number of models employees can support, according to both Mr. Kurash and Mr. Fuggit, of Vox Mobile.
For one, different phones use different versions of the Android operating system, making it hard to secure a fleet of different models, Mr. Fuggit said. Plus, companies using custom mobile software might find that their programs don't work right when they introduce a different phone, Mr. Kurash said.
“If that's the case, we may have to update our application,” he said.
To view the online article, please click here.
Safeguard Properties is the largest privately held field services company in the country. Located in Cleveland, Ohio and founded in 1990 by Robert Klein, Safeguard has grown from a regional preservation company with a few employees and a handful of contractors performing services in the Midwest, to a national company with nearly 1,000 employees. Safeguard is supported by a nationwide network of subcontractors able to perform any requested superintendence, preservation, and maintenance functions, as well as numerous ancillary services in the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.