Friday Nov 08, 2013

Security and the Mobile Workforce

Now that many organizations are moving to the BYOD philosophy (bring your own devices), security for phones and tablets accessing company sensitive information is of paramount importance. I had the pleasure to interview Brian MacDonald, Principal Product Manager for Oracle Business Intelligence (BI) Mobile Products, about this subject, and he shared some wonderful insight about how the Oracle Mobile Security Tool Kit is addressing mobile security and doing some pretty cool things. 

With the rapid proliferation of phones and tablets, there is a perception that mobile devices are a security threat to corporate IT, that mobile operating systems are not secure, and that there are simply too many ways to inadvertently provide access to critical analytic data outside the firewall. Every day, I see employees working on mobile devices at the airport, while waiting for their airplanes, and using public WIFI connections at coffee houses and in restaurants. These methods are not typically secure ways to access confidential company data. I asked Brian to explain why.

“The native controls for mobile devices and applications are indeed insufficiently secure for corporate deployments of Business Intelligence and most certainly for businesses where data is extremely critical - such as financial services or defense - although it really applies across the board. The traditional approach for accessing data from outside a firewall is using a VPN connection which is not a viable solution for mobile. The problem is that once you open up a VPN connection on your phone or tablet, you are creating an opening for the whole device, for all the software and installed applications. Often the VPN connection by itself provides insufficient encryption – if any – which means that data can be potentially intercepted.”

For this reason, most organizations that deploy Business Intelligence data via mobile devices will only do so with some additional level of control. So, how has the industry responded? What are companies doing to address this very real threat? Brian explained that “Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Application Management (MAM) software vendors have rapidly created solutions for mobile devices that provide a vast array of services for controlling, managing and establishing enterprise mobile usage policies. On the device front, vendors now support full levels of encryption behind the firewall, encrypted local data storage, credential management such as federated single-sign-on as well as remote wipe, geo-fencing and other risk reducing features (should a device be lost or stolen). More importantly, these software vendors have created methods for providing these capabilities on a per application basis, allowing for complete isolation of the application from the mobile operating system.

Finally, there are tools which allow the applications themselves to be distributed through enterprise application stores allowing IT organizations to manage who has access to the apps, when updates to the applications will happen, and revoke access after an employee leaves. So even though an employee may be using a personal device, access to company data can be controlled while on or near the company premises.

So do the Oracle BI mobile products integrate with the MDM and MAM vendors? Brian explained that our customers use a wide variety of mobile security vendors and may even have more than one in-house. Therefore, Oracle is ensuring that users have a choice and a mechanism for linking together Oracle’s BI offering with their chosen vendor’s secure technology.

The Oracle BI Mobile Security Toolkit, which is a version of the Oracle BI Mobile HD application, delivered through the Oracle Technology Network (OTN) in its component parts, helps Oracle users to build their own version of the Mobile HD application, sign it with their own enterprise development certificates, link with their security vendor of choice, then deploy the combined application through whichever means they feel most appropriate, including enterprise application stores. 

Brian further explained that Oracle currently supports most of the major mobile security vendors, has close relationships with each, and maintains strong partnerships enabling both Oracle and the vendors to test, update and release a cooperating solution in lock-step. Oracle also ensures that as new versions of the Oracle HD application are made available on the Apple iTunes store, the same version is also immediately made available through the Security Toolkit on OTN. 

Rest assured that as our workforce continues down the mobile path, company sensitive information can be secured. 

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about the Oracle BI Mobile HD, click  here

To learn more about the BI Mobile Security Toolkit, click here 

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