The future of computers and communication lies with mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones with desktop-computer capabilities. Their size, operating systems, applications and processing power make them ideal to use from any place with an internet connection. And with the expansion of ruggedized devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and operating systems, such as Chrome OS, macOS and Windows 10, every piece of hardware that's enhanced with this software and capabilities becomes a mobile computing device.
Because mobile devices have become more affordable and portable, organizations and users have preferred to buy and use them over desktop computers. And with ubiquitous wireless internet access, all varieties of mobile devices are becoming more vulnerable to attacks and data breaches.
Authentication and authorization across mobile devices offer convenience, but increase risk by removing a secured enterprise perimeter’s constraints. For example, a smartphone’s capabilities are enhanced by multi-touch screens, gyroscopes, accelerometers, GPS, microphones, multi-megapixel cameras and ports, allowing the attachment of more devices. These new capabilities change the way users are authenticated and how authorization is provided locally to the device and the applications and services on a network. As a result, the new capabilities are also increasing the number of endpoints that need protection from cybersecurity threats.
Today cybercriminals can hack into cars, security cameras, baby monitors and implanted healthcare devices. And by 2025, there could be more than 75 billion “things” connected to the internet — including cameras, thermostats, door locks, smart TVs, health monitors, lighting fixtures and many other devices.
While it's certainly critical to establish and enforce an enterprise-wide security policy, a policy alone isn't sufficient to counter the volume and variety of today's mobile threats. In 2019, Verizon conducted a study (PDF, 77 KB, link resides outside of ibm.com) with leading mobile security companies, including IBM, Lookout and Wandera, surveying 670 security professionals. The study found that 1 out of 3 of those surveyed reported a compromise involving a mobile device. 47% say remediation was "difficult and expensive," and 64% say they suffered downtime.
And companies embracing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies also open themselves to higher security risks. They give possibly unsecured devices access to corporate servers and sensitive databases, opening them to attack. Cybercriminals and fraudsters can exploit these vulnerabilities and cause harm or damage to the user and the organization. They seek trade secrets, insider information and unauthorized access to a secure network to find anything that could be profitable.
Phishing — the number-one mobile security threat — is a scamming attempt to steal users’ credentials or sensitive data, such as credit card numbers. Fraudsters send users emails or short message service (SMS) messages (commonly known as text messages) designed to look as though they’re coming from a legitimate source, using fake hyperlinks.
Mobile malware is undetected software, such as a malicious app or spyware, created to damage, disrupt or gain illegitimate access to a client, computer, server or computer network. Ransomware, a form of malware, threatens to destroy or withhold a victim’s data or files unless a ransom is paid to decrypt files and restore access.
Cryptojacking, a form of malware, uses an organization’s computing power or individual’s computer power without their knowledge to mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, decreasing a device’s processing abilities and effectiveness.
Unsecured wifi hotspots without a virtual private network (VPN) make mobile devices more vulnerable to cyberattack. Cybercriminals can intercept traffic and steal private information using methods such as man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks. Cybercriminals can also deceive users into connecting to rogue hotspots, making it easier to extract corporate or personal data.
Older operating systems (OS) usually contain vulnerabilities that have been exploited by cybercriminals, and devices with outdated Oss remain vulnerable to attack. Manufacturer updates often include critical security patches to address vulnerabilities that may be actively exploited.
Mobile apps have the power to compromise data privacy through excessive app permissions. App permissions determine an app’s functionality and access to a user’s device and features, such as its microphone and camera. Some apps are riskier than others. Some can be compromised, and sensitive data can be funneled through to untrustworthy third parties.
The core security requirements remain the same for mobile devices as they do for non-mobile computers. In general, the requirements are to maintain and protect confidentiality, integrity, identity and non-repudiation.
However, today's mobile security trends create new challenges and opportunities, which require a redefinition of security for personal computing devices. For example, capabilities and expectations vary by device form factor (its shape and size), advances in security technologies, rapidly evolving threat tactics, and device interaction, such as touch, audio and video.
IT organizations and Security teams need to reconsider how to achieve security requirements in light of device capabilities, the mobile threat landscape and changing user expectations. In other words, these professionals need to secure multiple vulnerabilities within the dynamic and massively growing mobile device environment. A secure mobile environment will offer protection in six primary areas: enterprise mobility management, email security, endpoint protection, VPN, secure gateways and cloud access broker.
EMM is a collective set of tools and technologies that maintain and manage how mobile and handheld devices are used within an organization for routine business operations.
To protect data from email-based cyber threats such as malware, identity theft and phishing scams, organizations need to monitor email traffic proactively. Adequate email protection includes antivirus, antispam, image control and content control services.
With technologies such as mobile, IoT and cloud, organizations connect new and different endpoints to their response environment. Endpoint security includes antivirus protection, data loss prevention, endpoint encryption and endpoint security management.
A virtual private network (VPN) allows a company to securely extend its private intranet over a public network's existing framework, such as the Internet. With a VPN, a company can control network traffic while providing essential security features such as authentication and data privacy.
A secure gateway is a protected network connection, connecting anything to anything. It enforces consistent internet security and compliance policies for all users regardless of location or device type used, and it keeps unauthorized traffic out of an organization's network.
A CASB is a policy enforcement point between users and cloud service providers (CSPs). It monitors cloud-related activity and applies security, compliance and governance rules around cloud-based resources use.
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