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Is it time to embrace “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD)?

by kenok ‎12-21-2011 09:28 AM - edited ‎12-24-2011 06:09 AM

This is a guest blog post. Views expressed in this post are original thoughts posted by Ken O'Kelly, Pre-Sales consultant at Imtech ICT Ltd. These views are his own and in no way do they represent the views of the company he works for.


In the IT Industry there is a topic that comes up on a regular basis and generates a lot of debate and that is Bring Your Own Device or BYOD as it is more commonly known. It seems that since the new wave of "smart phones" have come along the IT industry seems to have woken up to a threat that has existed since the early PDA's like the Psion or my beloved US Robotics Palm Pilot (which was released in 1996, its fifth generation sister has only just been retired from our household)




For as long as I can remember IT staff have been dumping data from corporate systems to their devices in one form or another. This data was unencrypted and unsecured and taken off the network and out of the building without considering data or security policies. But this was usually the preserve of the more skilled IT professional at the time. Then along came the Windows CE devices


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 (this model was released in 2002) and made things a bit more easier to do with built in syncing software that could grab data from email and calendars and even spreadsheets loaded with data, but again this was for the slightly more IT biased person. When Apple released the iPhone  

iPhone Original

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(released in 2007) this all changed, suddenly normal mobile users (NORMOB's) were getting a smart phone that was easy to use and configure. Along came a flood of clever developers and software that made it so easy to move data between corporate systems and the phone. Software like Dropbox  made it easy to move documents and files out and make these accessible to the phone. If the IT department blocked access to email externally then a client running on the desktop could interface with the email systems and replicated it out to the phone. So, users have always found ways round the IT departments attempt to stop them getting data out of the network.


So, what can the IT department do about this? Well, they need to stop trying to block users from accessing this data and instead provide secure ways for users to access the data they need to. Then they will be less likely to want to circumvent the controls put in place, as more often than not users just want to be able to access their mail, calendar and contacts from a device that isn't a BlackBerry. Providing users access to email "could be" the easy bit, if you standardise on how you are going to allow access. Luckily or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, Microsoft has provided an adopted standard way of real time access to email in the form of the ActiveSync  protocol. ActiveSync is a proprietary synchronising technology developed by Microsoft and embedded into Exchange. Microsoft has also licensed the technology to Google (for Android and Gmail), IBM for Lotus Notes, Novell for GroupWise, Nokia for Symbian and Apple for iOS. The handy thing about all these companies supporting the same technology is that for the IT team they can push out a lot of security settings from the email server. Security settings like forcing encryption of the storage on the smart phone, pin codes, lock screen timeouts etc.  Encryption is a function that should be required by the IT team before email is allowed to rest on a device. The unfortunate thing is the support for it by device manufacturers is somewhat poor but getting better. Symbian and iOS have full support with Android bringing support for encryption to mobiles with Android 4.0(Ice Cream Sandwich). Also the ability to remote wipe a device is also a must as the IT team should have the ability to erase a device if it is lost or stolen or the employee leaves the organisation in order to protect the company’s data. But what about access to other data and systems? This is where using a Juniper Junos Pulse SSL VPN client to gain access to a web based CRM system or document management system, which allows users to access information and or documents on a read only basis if possible. Alternatively a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution such as VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop can allow users to run a full desktop via a VPN connection to the office from their "smart" devices. Using VDI means the users are accessing and manipulating their data in the organisations data centre and via a remote session, which is also running in the data centre. This means the data is secured by the organisations’ security controls and never leaves the protected environment of the data centre.


If the IT department wants to ensure a consistent security policy across their mobile devices, then Juniper's Junos Pulse Mobile Security Suite  is a perfect solution allowing them to leverage the strengths of each mobile platform. Junos Pulse Mobile Security suite brings together Mobile Device Management with Security on the Apple iOS and Google Android based devices. This allows the IT department to register a user’s device to the Junos Pulse Mobile Security Suite system and provision security access polices to ensure all users have the same security and access polices automatically provisioned to them. So, from a central console the IT department can see the status of the workforces’ mobile devices state of health. This can be tied in to the access the Juniper SA Series SSL VPN Appliances  and the MAG Series Junos Pulse Gateways  using Host Checker to only allow access to corporate resources from devices that have Junos Pulse Mobile Security Suite  installed and activated again ensuring that access to corporate devices is properly secured. All this is provided to the user via the Junos Pulse Client for mobile devices, which is available from the Apple appstore and the Android appstore. The user then enters in the licence code given to them by their administrator and the Junos Pulse Mobile Security Suite device registers itself to the system and automatically provisions the security policy and if necessary the access policy for the SA or MAG appliances.


The benefit of using Junos Pulse is that is comes as a single integrated client that provides a seamless security and access policy to end-users and allows the IT department to centrally administer a varied mobile workforce.


Take a look at  Junos Pulse Mobile Security suite and  Junipers SA and MAG appliances for information on mobile access for your network. Also, have a look at a great blog post from SSL_BOY  on selecting a secure access method  and from Graham Brown  on the benefits choosing the SA and Pulse for Emergency access during the bad weather of the winter period all of which have lots of valuable information on securing and allowing remote/mobile access to your network.


From an enterprise perspective I would also recommend Gilles Trachsel’s post on The Game Changers – The “Bring Your Own Device” Effect (BYOD)  and for service provider read, David Noguer Bau’s post on how Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is enabling new opportunities for services providers


Bring Your Own device is not something that is going to go away and it now needs to be embraced by IT and Security Departments because if they don’t the users will just find a way round the controls that are put in place to prevent them from having access. Network admins should find a level of access and security that they are comfortable with and gives the level of access that appeases the users.

I would love to know your thoughts and feedback on this post. How is your organisation dealing with BYOD or maybe you are already have a policy in place?


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