Enterprises in delicate balancing with BYOD

IT organisations grappling with security vs productivity as they try to embrace BYOD

Tags: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)DarkMatter ( CorporationVMware Incorporated
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Enterprises in delicate balancing with BYOD
By  David Ndichu Published  May 18, 2017

Businesses are caught between a rock and a hard place as the BYOD phenomenon unfolds-on one hand is the need to leverage the undeniable benefits of BYOD such as increase in employee productivity and engagement. On the other is trying to manage what is still complex enterprise BYOD management process.

The challenges BYOD adopters face are myriad. For one, most enterprise data centres were not designed with mobile and BYOD users’ base in mind. For most, secure access is often a separate tunnel into the datacentre that is enabled by a VPN or a gateway deployed in the “de-militarised zone” of computer networks, as opposed to the default access mechanism.

As a result, organisations are in a rush to redesign their networks to enable secure remote access at a large scale, says Deepak Narain, regional presales manager, MENA for VMware, provider of AirWatch MDM solutions.

They also want to do it with minimal disruption to existing topologies and maximum investment protection, Narain adds. “Securing the channel between the device and the data centre is one of the biggest emerging challenges in BYOD,” notes Narain.

Those that have managed to get off the blocks then run headlong into the threat of cybercrime. One reason for this is that more often than not, enterprises view security as an afterthought rather than the foundation of their remote working policies, notes Hussam Sidani, regional manager for Gulf at Symantec.

Cybersecurity firm DarkMatter’s approach to BYOD and its security thereof was to create a completely new platform, built from the ground up.

Enter KATIM.

KATIM, launched at this year’s MWC, is a secure communications suite, designed to offer a far higher level of protection against mobile attacks for users with demanding security needs. KATIM incorporates the KATIM Phone, KATIM OS, KATIM Secure communications application suite and KATIM Cyber Command Centre.

The move by DarkMatter is driven by the increased number of people using their mobile phones for both personal and business purposes. Further, security trends have shifted towards mobile platforms with more threat vectors targeting data and the apps on mobile devices, notes Rabih Dabboussi, DarkMatter’s senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development.

The issue is that most of the off-the-shelf mobile devices, with few exceptions, are produced for consumers, notes Dabboussi. The focus for most cell phone manufacturers is on lower costs, high resolution displays, better camera, etc. There’s a lot less attention to making these devices resilient and secure.

At first, DarkMatter explored the possibility of hardening off the off-shelf devices but soon realised it was better to start with a clean slate. “We started off with designing our own hardware to be purpose- built for resilience and security, given that there were critical features we were looking to develop for our clients that did not exist in available consumer devices,” explains Dabboussi.

There were different layers of security that needed to be put in place, says Dabboussi. First was the actual physical hardware of the device, then the OS and finally the application and use of the device. Ultimately all these are interlinked and interdependent, he adds.

So DarkMatter developed a purpose-built mobile device that by itself brings the first layer of defence and resilience at a hardware level. That layer seeks to protect the device itself from tampering, while authentication the user to the device and the device to the user. Then it works to also authenticate the device to the management console that DarkMatter developed along with it. The final element at the hardware level is to ensuring that the data stored on the device is encrypted and protected, explains Dabboussi.

DarkMatter also brought a few unique features with KATIM, including a shield-mode button that physically disconnects the camera and the microphone, an addition ideal for top level government and corporate officials who need to keep their device with them but with the peace of mind that their camera and their microphone will not be turned into a recording and listening device by a third party.

At the OS level, DarkMatter took the widely-available Android base and then modified and hardened it to make it more resilient. This is to ensure that application access to certain data, the control of the enterprise App Store and the full management of the OS is controlled by the management console. Any additional features that are not needed in such a professional and government level setting were removed from the OS, Dabboussi explains.

On the application layer, DarkMatter began with the acknowledgement that the phone is first and foremost a communication device, albeit with an increasing number of transactions carried out on the devices. That meant providing a higher level of resilience when it comes to communication. “This is where the KATIM app suite comes to play where we develop a suite of applications that ensures there is security when it comes to text messaging or chats, security with voice and video communication as well as security in sharing and disseminating news as well as workflow process systems.”

In the Middle East, among the more active industry verticals adopting the latest BYOD solutions are banking and finance, which are traditionally early adopters, as well as growing interest in academia, says Narain. “In addition, telcos across the region are rapidly rolling out managed device services to their end users.”

Sidani sees continued high demand for BYOD moving forward. “No longer will employees have to plead with IT staff to allow them to use their personal devices in the office, rather businesses will request or even mandate that staff do so.”

There will be a lot more apps/resources to choose from, Sidani says. Many think BYOD is limited to just accessing emails on a mobile device, or using a VPN to connect to corporate servers. However, there are far more business opportunities to be leveraged such as collaboration tools, shared tasks, and enhanced forms of communication, which can prove to be especially useful when teams are working from global offices on the same project.

IT organisations also need to develop a unified strategy, Sidani recommends. “With BYOD increasing in complexity, strategies needed to manage such policies will need to keep pace,” he says, adding, “IT departments will be expected to define guidelines and requirements for use, ensure only authorised parties have access to applications, monitor when needed and provide technical support in the event of unexpected network or device failure.”

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