IBM last week unveiled a new service that allows companies to lock and monitor employee smartphones. The service, called IBM Hosted Mobile Device Security Management, aims to offer a solution to the explosion of mobile devices in the workplace, but also highlights why such a solution is now necessary.
Research firm Gartner estimates that 461.5 million smartphones will ship worldwide this year. As such, smartphone shipments will exceed those of PCs, at 364 million units.
However, this sudden surge of smartphone usage is stirring some problems in the enterprise. No longer are employees seeking to use company-issued smartphones to do their work. Instead, they are using their own devices. In many cases, companies are encouraging this course of action. "Bring your our device" (BYOD) models tend to save companies money, because employees purchase the devices themselves. Furthermore, employees are generally more comfortable using the technology of their choosing, boosting productivity and employee satisfaction.
But if a company isn't careful, BYOD strategies can put sensitive information in jeopardy. For the most part, employees will not implement data protection measures themselves, putting the devices in danger of malware, hackers and other cyberthreats. This, in turn, can lead to issues for the company, which may be adversely affected if a smartphone is lost or data is breached.
IBM's new solution aims to change that. The service is intended to help companies protect against data loss, unauthorized intrusions and other threats by allowing IT departments to monitor employee devices that access the corporate network and configure such devices to line up with security policies.
"The BYOD trend creates real opportunity for employees to become more productive, but it also carries risk unless it is managed properly," said IBM Security Services vice president Marisa Viveros in a statement. "The new service from IBM helps organizations protect their enterprise data while allowing employees to have the flexibility needed for today's work environment."
The Hosted Mobile Device Security Management service can also allow companies to lock and locate missing devices, as well as detect and remove any malicious software found on them. This will likely come as welcomed news to many companies, as these issues have been among the greatest concerns about IT consumerization.
IBM isn't the first company to offer such security services, but it is one of the first major IT providers to make the move. This suggests that the IT industry as a whole is recognizing the demand for mobile security. According to the company's statement, Hosted Mobile Device Security will be available on iOS, Android, Research In Motion's BlackBerry, Symbian and Microsoft Windows Mobile.
An interesting aspect of IBM's service is that it is cloud-based, meaning companies do not have to deploy any physical systems. IBM will host the service itself, but it is working with other third parties to add other applications.
This trend of cloud-based security has been seen more often lately. According to a September report from Technavio, the global cloud security software market will see a compound annual growth rate of 41.4 percent between 2010 and 2014. Despite reservations about the cloud's data security capabilities, more businesses are finding it easier and more cost effective to deploy security services based in the cloud. Not only does it make the implementation of the services more efficient, many companies are also finding that cloud-based models actually offer greater protection, because vendors are able to dedicate more resources and personnel to security
Consumerization News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro