The light at the end of the tunnel really was an oncoming train. The emergence of mobile devices on the computing scene created security issues most people – purveyors of these devices excepted, of course – could not have anticipated until it almost was too late. Of course we all knew that cell phones would change the way we communicate. If there ever was any doubt that teenagers would walk around with their cell phones glued to their ears, all we need do is revisit the telephone sequence from Bye Bye Birdie. That piece anyway was inevitable. But the reality is that youngsters living in a world of constant cellular communication is the least of our worries. The real monster under the bed is the migration of computing to the mobile device. Two things have enabled this sea change.
The first and, arguably, the most obvious is the migration of PC power to a device that one can hold in one’s hand. The internet and more apps than we can count are now in a device not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes and, certainly, a lot thinner. Those apps, by the way, outnumber PC apps by a lot, and a large percentage are free. The second enabler is the cloud. With the ability to keep data in the cloud and access it from any device – from handhelds to PCs – is compelling. It also can become a security nightmare.
Securing these devices – and, by extension, our enterprises – is the topic of this month’s Group Test. We look at a series of products to secure those mobile endpoints and, more important, the data passing through them. As I have said many times in these pages, at the end of the day, it’s the data we really care about. Securing the device is just a mechanical way to protect the data. In this case, though, there is a close connection between data and device. Part of that is the innocuous nature of the device, and part of it is that we just don’t think as much about the data when we are not at our PC.
So, that said, we’ll take a close look at products intended to save us from ourselves when it comes to protecting our data when we use mobile devices. Paraphrasing Pogo, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”