While mobility in the enterprise is enabling dexterity and agility in the workspace, it is also introducing a number of troubling enterprise mobility security risks that provides back-door opportunities for hackers and cybercriminals. The fact of the matter is, despite agreeing to the widespread Enterprise Mobile app security threats, owners believe that there’s nothing much that they can do about it.
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We’ve seen massive security flaws in the most widely used mobile operating systems. On August 2016, Apple faced a massive backlash because of the discovery of a security exploit termed as “Trident”. This threat was so dangerous that it compromised the affected Apple device at the root access level, which means there’s literally nothing that a malware can’t-do with it. This not just includes siphoning off information from your apps like Google, Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp or making any malicious changes to it, but also disabling installation of security updates from Apple.
The incidence brings light to a great issue of privacy and information security which is even graver for an enterprise than an individual. Running a successful business requires you to have some information which includes “Business secrets” that your competitors don’t have. Securing this information is means securing your business.
“There is no denying the fact that Enterprise mobility is important and has many benefits but it should not be at the expense of its information security.”
According to a global survey conducted by a digital security firm Gemalto, 95% of the Enterprise’s IT department feels security consideration is the biggest obstacle in increasing/implementing mobility in their organization.
A popular cyber security company, Symantec Corporation summaries top 7 risks of enterprise mobility as Heterogeneous Environment, Anytime & Anywhere Connectivity, Loss and Theft, Compromised Devices, Data Leaks, Bring Your Own Apps, and Malicious and Risky Apps.
An enterprise should give emphasis to securing its data at its employee’s mobile as much as it considers the same for their PC. The biggest challenge in Enterprise Information security is:
Mobile is an employee’s own property: A mobile device is an employee’s personal property and hence the enterprise has no control over it. Employees buy it as per their requirement and facilities it provides, and data security is the last thing on their list of considerations. An enterprise cannot force them to buy a particular model, or install or uninstall an app.
Even if an enterprise tries to impose some form of security measure on its employee, they will try to bypass it which can further increase the risk.
Enterprise Mobility Security Threats
As the trend of BYOD increases in the workplaces, enterprises get exposed to a number of security threats. These threats can be broadly categorized into the following three types:
Mobiles connected through Enterprise mobility has sensitive data which is either received, process or sent over various mobile applications. The information can be compromised at the device level in the following ways:
a. Unsecure app: Mobile users sometimes download an app and give too much information access to the app. These apps can retrieve important information from their phone. Side-loading is another thing that gives rise to such issues.
b. OS vulnerabilities: Although popular mobile operating systems like Android, iOS, Windows phone OS releases security patches for their OS exploits, many of the devices have an outdated OS which makes them vulnerable to them.
c. Malware: A mobile phone can get infected with a malware and the user might never know about it. This can be transferred by a number of means and need a dedicated mobile security app to find and remove them.
A mobile is a device which is always connected with a network. There are many ways to connect a phone with another device or with a network. We do not know how much secure a network is when we connect our mobile with it. No matter how short the period of time was when you connected your phone to an unsecured network; chances are that the vital information would’ve got transferred from it.
a. Wi-Fi transmission: Wi-Fi is not the most secure way to connect to the internet but it is certainly the easiest and most popular way. There are different tools available for a hacker to attack a Wi-Fi network after which your information could be easily accessible to them.
b. Unsecured public connection: These are very dangerous since they allow a hacker to sniff your IP address and launch different attacks thereof.
Sometimes users whether deliberately or unknowingly indulge in some sort of activities that compromise their business information. These include the following:
a. Device Password: Many users don’t use any form of a password in their devices. They do this for the ease of accessing their phone but this comes at the expense of compromising the security of their device.
b. Jail-breaking/Rooting the device: By doing so a user gets full access to their device kernels and can perform anything possible on their device. This extra access is not just for you but for the apps too. Doing this gives your apps “Admin” level power which allows them to do anything the app developer wanted it to.
c. Lost or Stolen Device: The size of a mobile phone is very small and it is very easy for anyone to lose it. This poses a great risk since the information can be stolen easily from them.
By going through this list you can easily conclude that it is very much possible for anyone to fall prey to at least one of these threats.
Enterprise Mobile App Vulnerabilities
Mobiles apps give a lot of convenience to a user which definitely results in increased productivity of the enterprise. But there are security vulnerabilities at various levels in the app development process.
These are listed below:
- Insecure data storage: There are many companies that provide cloud storage solutions to enterprises. It is possible that the storage is provided by a company whose security is compromised.
- No or Poor encryption: Encryption systems are evolving very fast and so are the ways to decrypt and hack the data. If you have stored your data in an unencrypted form, or with a weak encryption, you are just making it simple for the hackers to retrieve your sensitive information.
- Poor Authentication Method: Apps such as Enterprise mobility app should follow a strict authorization process. A weak authorization process within the app will make render its data vulnerable.
- Transfer layer protection: The data in the employee’s phone needs to be transferred to and from the company’s server. This data flow across a network from where it can be siphoned off using various techniques like Man-in-the-middle attack.
- Client-side injection: A poorly coded app can result is susceptible to attacks like the client-side injection. These are the attacks that are done on the company’s server rather than the app.
- Unnecessary user permission: An app developer might take more permission from the user than what is necessary. If the app gets infected, these permissions will allow a greater access to the hacker.
- Escalated privileges: A hacker can gain privileges to access some information because of an exploit, design flaw or configuration oversight.
These risks should be taken care of at the time when the app is being developed to ensure that there is no leakage of information and enterprise mobility is within the security controls.
Enterprise Security Solutions for Enterprise Mobile Apps
The security threats that are discussed above need special counter-measures in order to get the enterprise app security that is expected from it. Unless a multi-layered security is implemented achieving this is next to impossible. Let us see what solutions we have for to these threats.
- Developers should sandbox applications so that a malware cannot access any data which is not associated with the application.
- Prevent installing apps from outside App ecosystems provided by an operating system. Installing those apps can create a great security risk.
- Do not “jail-break” or root your device. It removes an operating system’s built-in security mechanism.
- Install the security updates or patches as soon as you get the notification.
- A device must always have a password on the lock-screen. Also, make sure the password is not easily predictable and has a good difficulty level.
- Enterprise applications also need to authenticate a user before logging them in. An app developer should use a double authentication process to secure it from hackers.
- Biometric authentication is a great authentication technique which is not only secure but is fast and easy too. It should be inculcated wherever possible.
- Many operating systems provide auto-wipe features so that its data cannot be misused. Make sure the employees know this and do the needful in case of such events.
- Data should be encrypted on the device of the user.
- It should also be encrypted while it is transferred to or from the device. This will greatly reduce man-in-the-middle attacks.
- Do not allow an attachment to be opened in an app which is unauthorized.
- Do not forward any information from your personal email id.
- Do not copy/paste or take screenshot of any data from your enterprise app.
- Don’t allow your data to be backed up by any unauthorized app.
Secure the Network
- Never use public Wi-Fi networks, and especially so when using your enterprise app.
- Make sure your Wi-Fi uses a strong password and WPA2 security technology.
Continual Enterprise app management
- Instruct employees not to use unauthorized apps and not to side-load any app.
- Update enterprise apps whenever an update is available.
- Enterprise web apps need to be secure when it is accessed from a web browser. It is thus important to use a secure and authentic browser while using these web apps.
How Enterprises without an EMM solution are at a greater risk
Mobile phones have become an indispensable part of our life. We use scores of mobile apps for in our day-to-day life. Employees knowingly or unknowingly share some vital company related information with other employees over freely available apps. These apps provide a lot of ease to the people using them. But at the same time, they jeopardize the confidentiality of the information.
Enterprise mobility management has become very important for any organization. Without a proper EMM solution employees will continue to share vital company information over these ‘less secure’ apps.
The table shown above indicates that there are only a small number of organizations that have a dedicated enterprise app which can do the basic tasks. This shows the need of Enterprise mobility apps in companies.
How to Secure an Enterprise Mobility App: The Process
The following are the steps that are needed to be followed to build a secure Enterprise app;
1. Define security requirements: Enterprises must specify what kind of security they need and what are the sensitive data.
2. Architecture design: An organization must have a well-defined security architecture design. If the app development company has this, they can reuse it for designing similar apps.
3. Reviewing the code: The source code should be inspected and security vulnerabilities should be analyzed. A well-defined checklist should be followed to ensure the inspection has covered all the aspects.
4. Security Testing: Organizations should participate in the testing process and give test cases. Security tests should be performed multiple times before the actual release of the app.
5. Risk Management: A process should be defined to handle incidences and reports related to app security. If in case something doesn’t go as per the plan, it should be made sure that no information is compromised in those incidences too.
The organization should actively promote error and security glitch reporting among its employees and process should be made for handling such incidences.
Mobility trends such as BYOD and BYOA are a huge concern for any enterprise today. On one hand employees want more freedom and access to their devices, and on the other hand securing information which can cost the enterprise its business is a big challenge. It is the need of the hour to develop a secure Enterprise app which could increase your productivity without adding to the risk of information leaks.
How Can i-Verve Help?
i-Verve has been developing safe and impenetrable Enterprise Mobility Apps for the top – most companies. It has a team of security experts who have pioneered many methodologies which have set a benchmark for EMM solutions.