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When Apps Attack – Mobile Application Management Saves the Day

Mobile devices were once malware immune, but as their ability to behave more like a computer increases, so does the inevitability that blackhats will find new and creative ways to infect these devices and siphon information one app at a time.

When Apps Attack – Mobile Application Management Saves the Day

by Rob Patey | November 19, 2012

Businesses have relied on anti-virus and malware protection on PCs and Laptops for years. Mobile devices were once immune, but as their ability to behave more like a computer increases, so does the inevitability that blackhats will find new and creative ways to infect these devices and siphon information one app at a time.

100,000 suspicious apps permeate the Google Play market right now. That’s almost 1/6 of the total number of apps available for the world’s leading mobile OS, Android. Granted all apps aren’t created equally, so to say your enterprise Androids have a 1 in 6 chance of being infected is an exercise in fear mongering versus fact. However, there is a definitive danger that will only grow larger as mobile devices continue their exponential rise in becoming a commodity for living…and for work.

“Well, we don’t use Android”

To say Android will never be part of your enterprise mobility strategy is a false comfort. As Gen Y and Millennials enter the workplace they come packing their own devices. While the term is often referred to as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), these digital natives DEMAND their own devices. Like the Borg from Star Trek, technology is part of their DNA. You can try safeguards to keep them out of email and supposed network “safe” spots like Wi-Fi, but with each new generation of smartphones and tablets it becomes infinitely easier for workers young and old to create their own tunnels of productivity.

“Fine, then Windows Phone 8 it is”

Not so fast. While a walled garden approach to app vetting provides certain comforts as Apple has proven with the iOS, apparently this is not the case with Windows 8. A wunderkind hacker in India, Shantanu Gawde, has apparently found a way to exploit the new mobile OS so nefarious individuals can see all the phone has to offer – including your emails, text messages, contacts and more. The verdict is still out on whether this exploit is baked into the OS or whether it is app related, but regardless, IT managers should still be at the ready to keep a careful eye on Microsoft mobile devices and their burgeoning app market over the next few months.  

“OK, we go Apple”

Good call, you’ll probably stay safe from malware, but what about the employee who attaches company info to Facebook, or accidently shares vital corporate secrets via a mistap when in their WordPress app? Mobile security relies as much on management and smart policies to govern devices as it does on simply ensuring apps aren’t festering with malware. Blocking social sharing apps will be imperative for companies where security is a paramount concern. Sadly trying to do this with native management tools becomes an exercise of manual frustration.

End Analysis: Mobile Devices & Apps Need Management

Not all apps are evil. Healthcare for instance, has been one of the leading industries to see the promise of apps for better bedside care. But even Apps with the best of intentions could pose a significant information sieve for your organization. In many cases the level of control you will need over apps and the devices they live on will be dictated by the unique needs of your business. Your mobile device policy will be your first step in defining your control levels over mobility and what will or will not be allowed on mobile devices. Your second step is to find a mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) solution with control granularity to meet your defined security needs and assist in automating the deployment of those standards.

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