The meaning of the term “mobility” has transformed nearly beyond recognition since the late 1990s. Before that point, “mobility” referred to the ability to move around. Today, “mobility” has become increasingly important in a technological context. We use the term to talk about being able to access our information anywhere, any time and through the device of our choice. Michael Brown, VP, security, product management and research at BlackBerry, discussed how mobility has changed in an exclusive interview.
“When BlackBerry first came onto the market,” Brown recounted, “people wanted email on their hip.” After a few years, mobile device users began to take the ability to receive emails on their phones for granted. “People wanted to access any information in the organization on their hip,” Brown noted. The definition of mobile computing expanded beyond laptops to other devices such as phones. Eventually, tablets came onto the scene as well.
As consumers and businesspeople embrace smartphones and tablets, challenges arise. These issues affect both smartphone manufacturers and IT departments. IT departments must face the trend of consumerization. They can no longer prescribe or proscribe devices, because C-suite occupants might be quite attached to their iPhones. As a result, IT administrators have to contend with a disparate number of operating systems, some of which are not compatible with business IT systems.
Brown pointed out that the popularity of smartphones has led to a surge of malware designed specifically for that type of device. The companies that create smartphone operating systems and software face the problem of keeping their customers safe from these threats. Brown commented that operating system developers can create underlying platforms that have built-in security. In addition, third party developers need to learn how to write secure applications.
End users also need education on how to avoid malware on their smartphones, Brown remarked. BlackBerry, for example, publishes notifications about applications if the company believes they access a greater amount of user information than normal.
Consumerization and malware are but two of the problems facing the enterprise. Brown noted that another issue is setting security policies and rules that will protect companies but still allow employees to complete their work. He acknowledged that this can be a difficult task. It requires balancing the needs of the staff with the interests of the business, as well as compliance regulations and other legal aspects.