Management and Provisioning of Mobile Devices - Dave Smith
By Greg Jensen on Apr 16, 2014
Today we will explore provisioning and device management. These weren’t always considered to be related topics, but in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) world, there are new relationships to consider…!
So what is a device…? In the context of the Internet of Things, it potentially refers to anything having an IP Address, such as an automobile, refrigerator, etc. In the context of mobile security, it refers to smartphones and tablets. The mobile device is the new channel to access corporate content, applications and systems, breaking free from the traditional model of using a desktop computer or laptop to access these assets.
It should be no surprise that from the perspective of enterprise security, “device management” means controlling the device or better yet, controlling what corporate assets can be accessed from this device. In a BYOD world, employees bring their personal mobile devices into the workplace in order to more flexibly access corporate assets. The BYOD phenomena defines not only an architecture, but also a cultural shift and quite frankly, an expectation of users that their personal devices will continue to provide the experience they are accustomed to for other mobile apps. Device management, therefore, must be carefully deployed, since it has to not only provide easy and familiar access for employees’ devices, while at the same time, must do so without sacrificing corporate security by providing limitless access to corporate assets. While on the surface device management seems to be a device-centric approach, it actually needs to be user-centric.
So what does provisioning mean to mobile devices? Provisioning means managing access. Often this is associated with managing access to application accounts – e.g. create, update, retrieve or delete of accounts or managing the privileges or entitlements granted through these accounts. However, when considering mobile devices and device management, provisioning must also refer to managing access from the user’s device to corporate assets (content, files/shares, applications, services). So, provisioning includes both digital (e.g. accounts and access) as well as physical access (e.g. enabling network access to corporate assets). Managing someone’s access by group or role (e.g. role-based access control, RBAC) is much more scalable and less brittle than managing access on an individual user-by-user basis.
Provisioning access can be triggered by a number of factors. One is “birth right” access, based on a new hire event. Another is driven by requests for new access (e.g. similar to online shopping, but where the cart holds new entitlements). With the introduction of mobile devices, a third example describes managing the available catalog of mobile apps that a particular person can download to his/her device, ideally based upon his/her job and role within the company.
Closely related to provisioning is de-provisioning, which is the removal of access. Historically, de-provisioning occurs when the person leaves the company or when they change jobs and no longer need access. In a BYOD world, de-provisioning must extend to the mobile apps running on the person’s enabled devices. Furthermore, given the fact that mobile devices can be more easily lost or stolen, mobile device management dictates that access has to be de-provisioned or blocked from the device, when the device itself has been compromised.
In the next blog, we will take a look into the concept of “secure containers”, which are provisioned to the device as a key component to a successful BYOD strategy.