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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

BYOD: How Stickers On Smartphones (Do Not) Secure Intellectual Property

Forrester Research sent out a press release a couple of weeks back, noting how MDM is a "heavy-handed approach" to BYOD security.  They also noted that IT professionals will move away from MDM because "they don't want to manage employee-owned devices" and will be looking to mobile virtualization.

I have a different opinion on this.

Security Stickers to the Rescue?

I was talking to a buddy of mine who works for a semiconductor firm (which will go unnamed).  He showed me a sticker that was covering his smartphone's camera and mentioned how BYOD was making inroads into the workplace.  Overall, he was happy about using his personal device at his job, but also noted how the security in place was for show only.

I inquired whether they were using a mobile device management solution or something along those lines.  He said that they weren't (he's not with IT, so there's always the possibility that there is a data loss prevention solution in the backend coordinating information security).  The only things that this particular company was using as "protection," he said, were stickers that were placed over the smartphone's camera to prevent information from leaking via snapshots.

Now, the thing about these stickers is that they can only be used once.  They're relatively hard to peel off and, once off, they won't stick to anything else.  The way it works: before he goes into a zone where cameras are forbidden, a guard physically checks to make sure there is a sticker over the camera; if there isn't one, a sticker is affixed.  The guard also checks cameras when people are leaving.  It's up to the employee to peel off the sticker; some keep it in place until they need to use the camera.

Why this fails as a security measure:
(1) Peel off the stickers enough times and you'll have enough gluey residue that remains behind on the smartphone that allows one to re-use a sticker (or stick any other thin material like paper) at will.  Since guards only make sure that the sticker is in place (and don't pull on it to test its strength), it's not as effective as it looks.  

(2) My particular friend uses one of those smartphone cases that come with a flap (like a book).  The guards always check the rear-facing camera but don't seem to realize that there is a front-facing camera underneath the cover.  There is nothing that prevents him from using this camera.

Virtualization/Containerization Good but Something Needs to Back It

And this is why I don't think that MDM will be pushed aside even as companies opt for mobile virtualization or containerization.  Containerization has its share of problems, certainly.  I've heard plenty of stories of a particular containerization solution that's not Bad.  From a purely logical standpoint, containerization is an elegant solution to the problem of mixing personal and corporate information on a person's device.

However, the truth of the matter is that, no matter how elegant the solution, at one point hands will have to get dirty.  Even if virtualization or containerization is used, how does one prevent data leaks like the one at my friend's company?  The only way is to go in there and disable the employee's camera, at least while on the job.

Related Articles and Sites:
http://news.idg.no/cw/art.cfm?id=F8C6DCE2-9A9B-575B-F6D43A4E5FFD80FF
 
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About sang_lee

Sang Lee is a Senior Account Manager and Security Analyst with AlertBoot, Inc., the leading provider of managed endpoint security services, based in Las Vegas, NV. Mr. Lee helps with the deployment and ongoing support of the AlertBoot disk encryption managed service. Prior to working at AlertBoot, Mr. Lee served in the South Korean Navy. He holds both a B.S. and an M.S. from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.