Mobile Security Checklist to Minimize Risk

The number of mobile devices in the workplace is exploding and with this, a new frontier for cyber-attack is emerging that poses a significant risk to business. As the great philosopher and strategist SunTze wrote, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.”

Threat analysts are finding that malware isn’t just a problem for laptops any more. For example, reports indicate that the CloudAtlas campaign, a sophisticated advanced persistent threat that initially targeted windows machines, has made its way to mobile platforms including Android, Apple IOS and Blackberry systems. Our own SonicWall Security Threat Research Center uncovered the Android counterpart of the CloudAtlas campaign. This malware masquerades itself as an update for the popular messenger app Whatsapp, and in turn, spies on a victim’s device to obtain sensitive data,such as texts, contacts and calendar information, and passes it back to the attacker, creating a huge business risk.

Could you, or one of your employees unknowingly have a mobile device infected with malware harvesting your confidential business data?

Fundamentally, there are two key business risks that you need to protect from as workers go mobile. The first, is theft or loss of mobile data. The second, is mobile devices becoming conduits for malware attacks that affect corporate systems and data. So what are the mobile threats you need to be aware of to protect your business?

Here’s a checklist of threats you need to be prepared to tackle in the mobile worker era:

  1. Lost and stolen devicesNo surprise here. If a device is lost or stolen, and corporate data was stored on the device, there’s a risk of confidential data loss. An even bigger risk, is a lost or stolen device being used to gain access to corporate data and apps on the back end. Significantly more data could be impacted if an unauthorized user with a lost or stolen mobile device gains access to the data center. This is particularly problematic for businesses subject to regulatory compliance.
  2. Mobile malware and vulnerabilitiesAnother concern is rogue apps downloaded to devices containing information-stealing malware, such as the CloudAltas threat discussed above, or vulnerabilities with devices, OS design and 3rd party apps. These threats provide entree for attacks and can lead to data theft and downtime. Again, this is a risk for data on the device, but potentially an even bigger risk if the device becomes a conduit for malware to infect backend data systems and cause data loss or downtime.
  3. Data leakage through 3rd party appsCorporate data and apps co-mingling with personal data and apps on devices can also create risk and lead to corporate data leaking, either intentionally or unintentionally. For example, many social apps mine contact lists from other apps and invite contacts to join their service. With this, confidential customer contact information stored in a business app could unintentionally be “shared” to a personal social app, leaking customer contact information and potentially damaging a business’s reputation or violating regulatory rules.
  4. Insecure Wi-FiLastly, the riskof man-in-the middle attacks. Attackers can snoop data if traffic is sent over unencrypted networks such as public wifi. Data in-flight is likely the pulse of the business. It likely contains fresh, sensitive data, and may even contain data subject to legal or regulatory requirements for confidentiality. If that data is intercepted, it could be damaging to the business. Although the relative quantity of data lost or stolen in case of in-flight traffic interception is likely small, the potential for damage is still there. So, to protect in-flight data from interception, data should be encrypted.

Mobile Security Solution

So, now that we reviewed the top threats, how can you prepare to win the mobile security battle to come? To protect from these threats, the best defense is a good offense.

Secure container and encryption technologies such as Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) can help isolate and secure business apps and data on mobile devices. This a great start, but company data and networks are still at risk if only on-device data protection is addressed. Security is an end-to-end mobile workflow challenge.

For comprehensive mobile security, in addition to EMM, deploy security and access control technologies in your IT infrastructure that authenticate users and interrogate devices, OSes, mobile apps and validate their integrity. Only grant VPN access to trusted users, devices and business apps to help protect from rogue access and malware attacks. Also deploy, next-gen firewalls to scan mobile traffic entering your network and block malware before it infects corporate systems and data. Next-gen firewalls can also scan mobile traffic entering your network and block malware before it infects corporate systems and data and block access to and from disreputable web applications and sites, adding another layer of protection.

For more information on the security and access solutions you need to enable mobile worker productivity while protecting from threats, read our eBook: SonicWall Secure Mobile Access.

SonicWall Staff
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