Is the Best Way to Secure Mobile Devices in the Endpoint or the Network?

Network World recently published an article where they posed the question of whether it’s better to secure the mobile device or the network. Securing the network or device is an age old dilemma but at least it has a clear-cut answer.

If mobile devices could stay behind a corporate firewall 24×7, then sure it is possible that implementing strong network security measures is the right way to go. The reality is that mobile devices, just like laptops, will leave the secure, corporate network and connect to public networks where they can potentially download malicious software or acquire a worm or other virus. Once a mobile device is infected and connects to the corporate network, it doesn’t matter what type of parameter counter measures your organization has in place—the infection is already in your network.

The reality is that mobile devices, just like laptops, will leave the secure, corporate network and connect to public networks where they can potentially download malicious software or acquire a worm or other virus.

What would happen if one of your employees brings an infected removable media device to work, inserted it into a USB port? Because the device never it has the potential of infecting at least a small portion of your network. With mobile phones now acting as a portable media device, there is higher chance that additional threats will enter your network and there will be nothing that network security measures could do to prevent them from entering your corporate network.

In 2011 Sutter Health care had a major data breach of over 4 million patient records. This breach could not have been prevented using network based security measures. In this case, someone actually walked out of the building with a desktop computer (yes you read that right, a desktop) in order to retrieve the records. This error cost Sutter Healthcare more than $1 billion. Using the right data encryption technology, it is possible that these records would have been inaccessible.

One of the biggest challenges IT faces is dual-homed or multi-homed devices. An example of a dual-homed device is a laptop that connects to the Internet and the LAN without any corporate firewall measures in place to protect one from the other. In this example, there is very little network security appliances or other network security measures alone could do to protect data loss or infection.

Solutions for these challenges are forthcoming. For example, one of our partners, Intel, offers a product that helps secure mobile devices. 4G WIMAX is embedded directly into their chip-sets, so now users can connect to 4G connections and be on the corporate network at the same time. These endpoint would still need a firewall or other security measure would still have to be in place on the endpoint to prevent vulnerability since there wouldn’t be much that could be done on the network to prevent an attack at the endpoint level.

Endpoint protection is just one of many security prongs IT organizations need to have in an arsenal to protect their network including operating system and application patch management, endpoint anti-virus protection, and endpoint data encryption. Together these security tools reduce security and compliance risk.

I am not advocating that network security measures are not important—they are—but to say “only network security technologies can answer the three questions crucial to safeguarding business data” might be a bit of stretch.

When it comes to protecting your network and endpoints, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  • Trying to take measures only at the endpoint can be helpless sometimes, better to take precautions at network. Good tips here/