Mobile Device Management: Securing the modern workplace

July 28, 2023  |  Mark Stone

The content of this post is solely the responsibility of the author.  AT&T does not adopt or endorse any of the views, positions, or information provided by the author in this article. 

More mobile devices, more problems. The business landscape has shifted dramatically, as more endpoints connect to corporate networks from a wider variety of locations and are transmitting massive amounts of data. Economic forces and a lengthy pandemic have caused a decentralization of the workforce and increased adoption of a hybrid workplace model.

Today, employees are more mobile than ever.

The modern workforce and workplace have experienced a significant increase in endpoints, or devices connecting to the network, and managing these diverse endpoints across various geographic locations has grown in complexity.

Here’s an analogy: imagine a bustling city, with its many roads, highways, and intersections. Each road represents a different endpoint, and the city itself symbolizes your corporate network. As the city grows and expands, more roads are built, connecting new neighborhoods and districts. Our corporate networks are like expanding cities.

But along with digital transformation and a distributional shift of the workforce, the cybersecurity landscape is evolving at an equal pace. The multitude of endpoints that connect to the network is widening the attack surface that bad actors with malicious intent can exploit.

From a cybersecurity perspective, more endpoints represent a significant business risk. Organizations need to understand the importance of managing and securing their endpoints and how these variables are intertwined for a complete endpoint security strategy.

The evolution of Mobile Device Management (MDM)

Traditional MDM has existed in some form since the early 2000s, when smartphones entered the marketplace. MDM has evolved over the last few decades, and in some way, Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) represents this modern evolution. Today, UEM has become a prominent solution for modern IT departments looking to secure their expanding attack surfaces.

UEM is more than just managing endpoints. The unified” represents one console for deploying, managing, and helping to secure corporate endpoints and applications. UEM offers provisioning, detection, deployment, troubleshooting, and updating abilities. UEM software gives IT and security departments visibility and control over their devices as well as their end-users, delivered through a centralized management console.

For a more detailed discussion of mobile device security, check out this article.

What is the difference between MDM and UEM?

UEM and MDM are both solutions used to manage and secure an organization's devices, but their scope and capabilities differ.

MDM is a type of security software used by an IT department to monitor, manage, and secure employees' mobile devices deployed across multiple mobile service providers and across multiple mobile operating systems being used in the organization. MDM is primarily concerned with device security, allowing organizations to enforce policies, manage device settings, monitor device status, and secure devices if lost or stolen.

On the other hand, UEM is a more comprehensive solution that manages and secures not just mobile devices but all endpoints within an organization. This includes PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and IoT devices. UEM solutions provide a single management console from which IT can control all these devices, regardless of their type or operating system.

The need for comprehensive endpoint protection

As the number of endpoints increase with the rise of a mobile workforce, so does the need for comprehensive endpoint protection. This includes the use of encryption, secure configurations, and secure communication channels.

Encryption is a critical security measure that helps protect data in transit and at rest. By encrypting data, you can ensure that even if a device is lost or stolen, the data on it remains secure and inaccessible to unauthorized users.

Secure configurations are another crucial aspect of endpoint protection, which involves setting up devices to minimize vulnerabilities and reduce the attack surface. For example, this could include disabling unnecessary services, limiting user privileges, or implementing secure settings for network connections.

For protecting data in transit, secure communication channels are essential. This can be achieved by leveraging Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which encrypt the data being transmitted and provide a secure tunnel for communication.

The role of MDM in enforcing security measures

MDM solutions play a key role in enforcing these security measures consistently across all devices. MDM allows organizations to manage and control device settings, ensuring that all devices adhere to the organization's security policies.

For example, MDM solutions can enforce encryption policies, ensuring that all data stored on the device is encrypted. They can also enforce secure configurations, such as requiring devices to have a passcode or biometric authentication, and disabling features that pose a security risk, such as USB debugging on Android devices.

Check out this infographic for a visual representation of mobile security.

Implementing DLP policies within MDM solutions

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) policies are another crucial aspect of endpoint protection. These policies help prevent unauthorized data exfiltration, whether intentional or accidental.

MDM solutions can help enforce DLP policies by controlling what data can be accessed on the device, and how it can be shared. For example, MDM solutions can prevent sensitive data from being copied to the clipboard or shared via unsecured communication channels.

Security benefits of MDM and UEM

MDM (and by extension, UEM) delivers many benefits for organizations, with the most appealing being reduced costs across multiple departments. By comprehensively automating many IT tasks and processing, UEM often lowers overhead costs and hardware expenditures.

Other key benefits are as follows:

Offers endpoint management integration with multiple platforms: One of the major selling points of UEM software is its ability to integrate with a variety of platforms, including Windows 10, macOS, Linux, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android, among others. With UEM, your business can configure, control, and monitor devices on these platforms from a single management console.

Provides data and app protection across the attack surface: UEM protects corporate data and applications, reducing cybersecurity threats. This protection is accomplished by providing conditional user access, enforcing automated rules, enforcing compliance guidelines, providing safeguards for data loss, and empowering IT administrators to identify jailbreaks and OS rooting on devices.

Helps establish a modern Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) security stance: An effective UEM deployment can go a long way in maintaining the user experience for employees, regardless of who owns the device. UEM can be an effective tool for patching vulnerable applications, updating to the latest OS version, and enforcing the use of endpoint security software that actively protects BYOD devices from network-based attacks, malware, and vulnerability exploits.

Authentication: With the increase in cyber threats, implementing robust authentication measures has become more important than ever. This includes multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication, and other advanced authentication methods.

Enhanced mobile security: As the use of mobile devices for work purposes increases, so does the need for enhanced mobile security. This includes leveraging advanced security measures such as encryption, secure containers, and mobile threat defense solutions.

Remote data wiping: In the event of a device being lost or stolen, or if an employee leaves the company, it's crucial to ensure that sensitive corporate data doesn't fall into (or stay in) the wrong hands. UEM solutions provide the capability to remotely wipe data from devices — which can be a full wipe, removing all data, or a selective wipe, removing only corporate data while leaving personal data intact. This feature provides an essential safety net for protecting corporate data.

Application whitelisting: With the vast number of available applications, it is important to control which apps can be installed on corporate devices. UEM solutions allow for application whitelisting, where only approved applications can be installed on the devices, which helps to prevent the installation of malicious apps or apps that have not been vetted for security. It also ensures that employees are using approved and supported software for their work tasks.

Strategies for deploying MDM and UEM

Before rolling out any MDM or UEM solution, an organization must lay the foundation for effective deployment. By embracing a few key strategies, you can dramatically improve the chances of a successful implementation.

Establish a robust endpoint management policy: With BYOD and work from home (WFH), the risk of company data being compromised increases. Before implementing a UEM solution, an endpoint management policy is essential to ensure that all of your endpoint devices meet specific requirements.

Adopt automation: The future of enterprise device management is automation. From deployment to updates to reporting, an automated device fleet is the optimal solution. Automation helps reduce the manual effort and time spent on managing the devices, thereby increasing efficiency. Automation in MDM brings numerous benefits and has a variety of use cases. By automating tasks such as device enrolment, configuration, and updates, you can significantly reduce the time and effort required to manage mobile devices. This not only increases efficiency but also reduces the risk of human error, which can lead to security vulnerabilities.

Embrace 5G: The advent of 5G is already transforming the importance of mobile devices. The increased speed and reduced latency offered by 5G will enable more devices to be connected and managed efficiently. The increased speed offered by 5G means data can be transferred between devices and the MDM server much faster, enabling quicker updates, faster deployment of applications, and more efficient data synchronization. For instance, large software updates or security patches can be pushed to devices more quickly, reducing downtime and ensuring devices are protected against the latest threats. Reduced latency means that commands issued from the MDM server to the devices are executed almost in real-time — particularly beneficial in situations where immediate action is required, such as remotely locking or wiping a lost or stolen device.

Outsourcing enterprise mobility management: As the complexity of managing a mobile workforce increases, many organizations are considering outsourcing their enterprise mobility management, allowing them to leverage the expertise of specialized providers and focus on their core business functions.

By incorporating these trends and strategies into your MDM plan, you can ensure that your organization is well-equipped to handle the challenges of a mobile, hybrid and WFH workforce.

How AT&T Cybersecurity can help with MDM and UEM

In today's digital landscape, securing your organization's endpoints is more crucial than ever. AT&T Cybersecurity offers a range of endpoint security products and services designed to help you protect your laptops, desktops, servers, and mobile devices. AT&T’s unified approach to managing and securing endpoint devices provides better visibility and closes security gaps that may have been overlooked. With AT&T Cybersecurity, you can protect your organization's reputation, safeguard against key threat vectors, simplify management, and maintain control with Zero Trust.

Don't wait for a security breach to happen. Take a proactive approach to your organization's cybersecurity by exploring AT&T's endpoint security offerings. Whether you need advanced forensic mapping and automated response with SentinelOne, unparalleled visibility into IoT and connected medical devices with Ivanti Neurons for Healthcare, or high-level, end-to-end mobile security across devices, apps, content, and users with IBM MaaS360, AT&T Cybersecurity has a solution tailored to your needs.

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