Cyber security and smartphones a smart play
For all business operations, having the right security solutions in place is more important than ever. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 50% of small businesses have experienced a cyber attack, and 60% of both small and medium sized businesses that have been attacked will go out of business within six months of experiencing a cyber attack. Since data usage has become an important part of consumers’ daily lives, it has become a trend to offer to an unlimited data plan.
Smartphones, the internet of things, and mobile apps make it easy and cost effective to set up a “smart business,” but they can make new ventures more vulnerable, as well. Fortunately, small businesses can use wireless technology solutions to enhance security. We recently spoke to Andy Schlingman, who is responsible for business development in the state of Wisconsin for U.S. Cellular, and we promise no sales pitches while he explains how most carriers approach security. As he explains, “The small business owner has a lot of options they are probably not aware of.”
IB: Let’s stipulate at the beginning that consumers and businessmen and women love their smartphones, but let’s also begin by talking about how vulnerable their smartphones, and the mobile apps contained within, are to cyber attacks. How would you describe that level of vulnerability, especially for employers whose employees use a company phone?
Schlingman: “Cyber attacks are becoming more and more prevalent, not only across smartphones in the wireless industry but also across the entire internet, and because smartphones are basically an attachment or an extension of the internet, they are becoming more and more vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to utilize solutions like a mobile device management program.
“What that does is it really takes your smartphone and locks it down from a company standpoint. So when you’re looking at security, the pieces of security that are out there, one of them is protecting company information. And protecting it not only from cyber attacks, but also from employees taking company-owned equipment and going to websites they shouldn’t be going to and doing things with that phone that aren’t business related.
“So, if you’re using a mobile device management program, what you can do is control what that smartphone can do. Not only that, if it gets lost, you can wipe it out so that you’re protecting company information, not only from other people getting a hold of it, but also from having the devise going to internet sites that may be vulnerable to cyber attacks.”
IB: Is a mobile device management program an approach just about every carrier uses, or do different carriers try to attack security differently?
Schlingman: “Security is really broken down into three basic categories: monitoring — people, places, and things; fleet management and asset tracking; and protecting company information.
“Monitoring would involve sensors, cameras, and wireless devices that would allow the end user to manage their business remotely. Examples are sensors to monitor temperature and water levels in the agricultural space in order to optimize crop growth, cameras at remote locations in order to monitor the space, and sensors on doors within facilities to ensure that buildings remain closed, locked, and secure — all of which can be accessed from a wireless device.
“With fleet management and asset tracking, the government has mandated that the trucking industry provide electronic logging of their activities directly from the trucks’ engine and diagnostic ports versus the old, self-reported logbooks. Solutions allow customers with fleets of vehicles to track not only their whereabouts, but also monitor the maintenance schedules of the vehicles. We can also install routers in heavy assets such as front-end loaders and bulldozers to ensure the customer knows where they are at all times and decrease the risk of theft.
“Protecting company information comes in the form of a mobile device management solution. These solutions give the customer control over what content the end user is allowed to have on their company-owned device and control the websites the end users can access in order to stay compliant with company policy and to avoid any unnecessary data charges, as well being able to wipe company information from the device in the event the device is lost, stolen, or the end user has left the company.
“Most wireless carriers will break it down into those categories.”
IB: How would you handle a situation where an employee has his or her own smartphone and uses it for business purposes under someone else’s employ? How does that work in terms of security?
Schlingman: “That’s where we would go back to a mobile device management program. We can ring an employee’s device into an organization and allow them to get to their corporate email and their corporate internet site and lock that side of it down. We can sandbox it out where this is your corporate information and then this is your personal information. By using a mobile device management system, you can separate the two.
“What that allows you to do is protect the company information without really touching the personal information. If the phone gets lost or that employee leaves, you want to be able to take the corporate email off that device and take the access to corporate information off that device, but you don’t want to wipe out their pictures and their personal information.”
IB: How is that management solution priced?
Schlingman: “It’s usually on a per-user cost basis. It depends on what you need. There are different levels, from a very, very basic one where you just want to make sure that you’re able to wipe a device. That’s very basic or we can put on security layer after security layer to really lock down that device.”
IB: Does it affect the operation of the phone? Are there device performance tradeoffs?
Schlingman: “It doesn’t affect the operation of the phone. The only thing you would have is a secondary password. So you would have the main password to get into the phone, and then you would have a more dynamic password in order to get through the firewalls of the mobile device management system. It just provides an additional layer of security on that device.”
IB: Are there do-it-yourself options small businesses can take advantage of?
Schlingman: “Yes, there are a number of security options. You don’t have to do a full install of a security system from a small business perspective in order to get the features and solutions that big business is accustomed to. With the wireless apps that are out there with your smartphone and your tablet, you can use products where you can set these cameras up and monitor them wirelessly through your device. There are a lot of solutions out there right now for small business owners to do it themselves.”
IB: Finally, what are forthcoming fifth generation wireless networks going to mean to businesses and consumers alike, especially compared to the current 4G wireless networks?
Schlingman: “The biggest difference between the 4G and 5G is latency. The 5G networks are going to be more efficient from a latency standpoint, which is going to allow the small business user, and even those people who are out in remote areas, to start getting broadband-like speeds in order to stream video. That’s something that small business has to keep an eye on. They can set up a camera and then stream that video to their smartphone and their tablets. It really is going to take us to the next generation.
“Obviously, the 4G networks have been a fantastic jump over the 2G and 3G speeds, but the 5G is just the next level. It puts us in competition with cable companies where we will be able to stream video at a latency that will be real high.
“All the carriers are certainly going in this direction. I would think over the next two to three years, we’re going to start seeing this as the network of choice for all carriers. It’s in its infancy. It’s being built out. Everybody is driving to get 5G out there in the marketplace.
“The small business owner has a lot of options they are probably not aware of. From a monitoring standpoint, with just a simple router, you can monitor small businesses from video to doors opening, to making sure things are locked in, to temperature control. When we talk small business, it goes across a lot of verticals. It goes from utilities to manufacturing to agriculture to food service. There are just a number of different things that can help every small business, in their particular organization, with their security concerns.”
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