Perspectives on Securing Mobile and Social Business, 12 Months On

Twelve months ago, we reflected on two of the fastest-growing trends in enterprise operations — mobile and social business computing — and the security concerns associated with each.

These technologies seem to be at odds with the traditional security concerns of the enterprise. Today, there is a business desire to increase access to relevant corporate information, create new services and share information. Traditional security, on the other hand, seeks to restrict access per the principle of least privilege.

Key Findings on Securing Mobile and Social Business

In today’s world, these are not conflicting agendas. Our November 2015 paper, “Securing Mobile and Social Business: A Critical Need for Today’s Enterprise,” offered 10 key findings and recommendations to support them, which can be grouped into three broad themes: people, process and technology.

Within this framework, security leaders should focus on culture change at an individual and corporate level: balance personal accountability and autonomy; make security easier to adopt, consume and embed within normal and evolving personal, development and commercial practices; and build an agile approach to technology change that reflects both sides of the firewall.

Below is a list of the report’s key findings, recommendations and the themes to which they correspond.

  1. Mobile applications rarely adequately consider data and personal privacy. Standardize data and personal privacy approaches for enterprise applications (People, Process).
  2. Creating secure mobile applications remains manually intensive. Use tooling to streamline mobile application security assessments (Process, Technology).
  3. Mobile containers have not taken off. Address the opportunity for runtime application protection and security tooling (Technology).
  4. User patience and acceptance of security practices is more limited on mobile. Focus new mobile security models on usable, frictionless security (People, Process).
  5. Employee engagement is key to delivering security. Organizations must partner with employees around security (People, Process).
  6. There is a need to align culture with innovation. Develop a culture of collaboration and personal responsibility (People, Process).
  7. Privacy and confidentiality are more complex for mobile and social business. Evolve security policies to ensure constant vigilance (Process).
  8. Enterprise security models often fail to meet the needs of mobile and social business. Create variable and holistic models to address business needs (Process).
  9. Data loss and leakage is sometimes overlooked in today’s rapidly advancing IT environment. Rethink data protection policies (Process).
  10. Security policies are often not uniform throughout the organization. Treat security consistently across the enterprise, not silo by silo (Process).

The issues that fall under people and process are the most challenging to address. Resolving these issues requires strong leadership and a culture of change.

The Landscape Has Shifted

In the last 12 months, the world has moved on. The extent of these changes has led us to reflect on and revise our findings and recommendations. Some particular observations regarding the technical and cultural landscape of the IT industry are substantially different from when we issued the report over a year ago.

For example, cognitive computing is pervasive in 2017. Embedding autonomous, scalable, human-like behavior is a base requirement for productive work. Similarly, the proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has led to an exponential rise in unstructured data sources. While available previously, they have moved beyond hobby ideas. In fact, the average user is speaking about IoT technologies as though they were mature. For mostly economic reasons, they are rarely accompanied by mature security considerations.

Analytics has always been valued, but the data scientist has become more prominent. Many cognitive tools purport to provide deeper interpretation capabilities, but the availability of open source languages with library ecosystems enables IT professionals to address the scale of data with an agility that only comes with much experience.

A year ago, cloud was financially compelling, but mainstream adoption had not taken place. Today, IT leaders must retool both internal and external systems to support cloud principles. This changes assumptions about attack surface, relies on new skills and roles, and requires IT teams to adjust governance processes.

Aside from trends cybersecurity experts can predict and monitor, the past year also saw a significant rise in political and financial uncertainty around the world. More people than ever can rapidly define, create and deliver world-class capabilities at scale through an API economy. Flexibility and transparency of pricing support agile delivery to a rapidly changing marketplace. However, some experts are concerned about the security of some of these services. Any compromised constituent service may compromise the whole.

Responding to the Shift

Given the dynamics described above, what should you do next? New competitors and disruptive models inevitably challenge the status quo, with people and process impacting security more than technology. Until those themes change considerably, technology improvements are unlikely to strongly influence behavior in the context of business and personal processes. We recommend focusing on cultural norms as well as social and commercial expectations to enact positive change.

While it’s generally accepted that organizations always have some security exposure, the latency between threat remediation and new risks is diminishing. Automating remediation is key. Historically, the IT department has shouldered most of the responsibility for security, but this must be a joint effort between all departments in the organization. Individual employees need to acknowledge personal responsibility.

The consumerization of IT has recently driven business innovation, demonstrating the benefits of a relatively unpredictable, yet standards-based platform economy. IT leaders should adopt tools, techniques and methodologies to spark organizational change and support intuitively risk-constrained behavior. These practices should encourage more responsible and mindful behavior throughout the entire organization.

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Martin Borrett

IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO IBM Security Europe

Martin Borrett is an IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO IBM Security Europe. He advises clients at the most senior level on policy, business, technical, and architectural issues associated with security. Martin leads IBM's Security Blueprint work and is co-author of the IBM Redbooks "Introducing the IBM Security Framework and IBM Security Blueprint to Realize Business-Driven Security" and "Understanding SOA Security." He is Chairman of the European IBM Security User Group community, and a member of the Royal Society's Cybersecurity Research Steering Group. He is also a Fellow of the British Computer Society and a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and member of the IET. Martin has a passion for sailing - having represented Great Britain - and is also a keen tennis player.