The prevalence of mobile devices in the workplace has moved security to the top of every IT manager’s list.

Get Smart With Mobile Security

Previously we mentioned that security company Symantec was going to start offering free online software and services to protect data on smartphones. Soon after, its competitor McAfee announced that it was acquiring the mobile security firm Trust Digital in a deal to be completed by the end of the month. Others in the security markets have also begun to offer up mobile solutions as well, beefing up efforts to protect data and minimize the risks of phone theft or loss.

Thought smartphones aren’t yet a critical business component, the market analysis firm Gartner estimates that smartphones will outsell computers in two years and, by 2013, smartphones may surpass computers as web users' preferred vehicle for surfing the Internet. Such stats have put IT departments on alert and they are scurrying to have policies and security in place.

Look For Encryption

One way to protect smartphone data is with encryption. While the more and more companies are adding mobile security to their products and services, it’s not always clear what to look for, especially when there are more varieties of smartphone than there are security patches. Recently Dave Shackleford, contributing writer at offered a list of critical factors organizations should consider when evaluating smart phone encryption products.

  • Cost: Though they want to protect data, companies don’t want to break the bank if they don’t have to. Yet, because current encryption services available are targeted toward individuals rather than enterprise users, providing little to no centralized management or policy capabilities, enterprises should expect to pay a significant amount for these products and should start to grow their budgets to accommodate.
  • Platform Support: Since most companies will include loyal Blackberry users along side loyal (crazed?) Apple iPhone enthusiasts, companies should choose a product that covers multiple platforms.
  • Policy Focus: All organizations have their own unique security needs and policies related to mobile device use and sensitive data protection. As well, industry standards may outline strict compliance controls. If a company is able to outline its mobile security policies before selecting a product, it will be easier to articulate your needs. As mobile security expands globally, consider products that have the flexibility to grow alongside your policy.
  • Central Management: Most companies are inclined to centrally manage and monitor the status of each employee’s phone's encryption in real time. Consider products that offer centralized dashboards and compatibility with a company’s current infrastructure.
  • Encryption Identification: Some phones provide out-of-the-box encryption with limited features, while others running the Windows Mobile operating system offer a more full-bodied encryption. BlackBerry provides encryption through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) application, while Apple offers "strong hardware encryption”. Knowing what you have and what you need to build on it will help guide ask the right questions.

Integrating mobile security before smartphones reach critical mass will help companies be prepared for when security threats on mobile devices become more real.

Mobile Workforces to Unite at Starbucks in July

If the world is your office space, then you’ve probably already heard the news. Starting July 1, customers will be able to get free Wi-Fi access at more than 6,700 Starbucks coffee shops.

Starbucks now joins thousands of other restaurants and shops where wifi is already available. As well, it is another example of how access to 3G (or now 4G) networking is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Yet, for most mobile users, 3G/4G connectivity is still required for business use. Those networks not only provide a little more security, but also the peace of mind that where ever your employee roams, they will still be able to stay connected.