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Veterans Affairs Vies for Top Notch Mobile Strategy

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs outlined several rules that should be followed by organizations hoping to leverage new technologies in "the age of mobility."

Veterans Affairs Vies for Top Notch Mobile Strategy

by Rob Patey | August 27, 2012

With more iPads, iPhones and other devices making their way into the business environment, it can be tough to find a starting point with mobile device management (MDM) technology. According to a recent TechTarget article, MDM starts with juggling devices and security. 

"IT […] has to look for better controls around data and applications, which you don’t really have in a consistent form today - just given the diverse landscape of platforms and how apps are currently developed," said Christian Kane, an analyst for Forrester Research, who was quoted in the article.

Organizations looking to implement a bring your own device (BYOD) program face significant challenges when designing their mobile strategy. Common hurdles include: deciding which devices should be offered to employees (or permitted for use), how security policies should be enforced and what happens when devices are lost or stolen.

The headaches of device diversity can be overcome, but it does require a mobile strategy that combines effective security policies and the technology to enforce best practices across many platforms. One organization has shown that mobility can work even in an environment full of compliance and security regulations.

Veterans Affairs’ mobile device management program

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs achieved a significant success with its mobile strategy, according to a recent article by AOL. The article highlighted comments from Donald Kachman, the mobile device security chief at VA, who said the agency has nearly eliminated mobile security breaches.

According to Kachman, encryption has played a major role in mitigating risks for the organization, with 99 percent of the agency's electronic data being encrypted. He outlined several rules that can serve as guidelines for other organizations hoping to leverage all the new technologies in "the age of mobility":

  1. Workers have one hour to report lost or stolen devices
  2. Every device must have encryption
  3. Every device must use software to prevent the screen from being copied, photographed or forwarded
  4. Passwords must include letters, numbers and symbols
  5. Workers must change their passwords every three months
  6. Employees must partake in annual refresher training
  7. Noncompliant employees are locked out of the system

MDM needs evolve with technology

One challenge Kachman discussed with AOL is the constant evolution of the technological landscape. VA currently uses 20,000 mobile devices, including BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad and Android. However, as the department transitions to 100,000 devices over the next few years, it is looking for a cloud-based MDM system to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of devices within the organization.

"The technology is changing rapidly and with that, so do the risks and capabilities," Kachman told AOL. "By having a dedicated mobile program, it makes keeping abreast of the newest threats and new capabilities of the devices easier to further the agency's mission."

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