The Mobile Cloud: How Cloud Services Cast Dark Shadows on Mobile Activity

Cloud apps and the mobile cloud have revolutionized collaboration across the Web, and employees have embraced them with open arms in the enterprise. IT workers, on the other hand, have their arms firmly planted across their chest in this situation, fighting off the embrace like you would a goodbye after a bad Tinder date.

The problem here is that these cloud options, as beneficial as they seem, don’t always meet the stringent security requirements or the approval of IT. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped countless employees from using them.

Security in the Mobile Cloud

A recent IBM study of Fortune 1000 companies showed that more than 1 in 3 employees are accessing cloud apps at work. Of those, almost 60 percent know full well that the apps they’re utilizing are not approved by IT. To make matters worse, they’re putting the entire organization at further risk by using corporate credentials on these cloud apps.

So why exactly are employees resorting to using unapproved cloud apps in the enterprise? The answer is simple, really: Cloud apps are easy to use, familiar and quick. Exacerbating this current situation is the relative dearth of options from the organization for cloud apps like the ones they prefer.

Using unapproved cloud apps is a dangerous game, with an employee’s risky decision to do so putting the entirety of the enterprise in danger of data leaks or even breaches that could cripple the company.

To combat this rogue activity, organizations have leveraged Cloud App Security Brokers solutions (CASBs). CASBs traditionally hook into an enterprise network device, gateway or firewall. They then pull all information around cloud app usage, aggregate it and create reports on what users are doing. They provide CISOs with visibility into employee usage of cloud apps in the enterprise.

CASBs are great in identifying issues, but there is one significant limitation that leaves the enterprise wide open: the mobile blind spot.

Mobile Blind Spot

Since the growth and proliferation of mobile devices and the ensuing rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), employees have been able to work outside the office on the devices of their choice. This movement is led primarily by millennials, the digital natives who happen to represent the largest generation in the workplace, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

While the productivity benefits of applications are abundantly clear, the proclivity of employees to use whatever apps they please in the enterprise to get the level of productivity they’ve grown accustomed to can put the entire organization at risk of malware-related attacks and compliance violations.

It’s not as if the mobile blind spot is a temporary issue. Mobile devices are expected to represent over 87 percent of all Internet-enabled devices by 2017, Forbes reported. This dangerous mobile blind spot is only going to grow as IT loses more and more visibility and control into user actions.

Enforcing Mobile and the Cloud

While existing CASBs are unable to peer into the mobile blind spot created by the shadow IT, CISOs now have an answer. These security leaders can leverage a cloud application security solution with the ability to detect all cloud apps and actions in the enterprise, even the mobile cloud ones.

Not only does the right solution address the mobile blind spot, but it also helps connect users to enterprise-approved cloud apps while blocking risky, unapproved ones. Cloud Security Enforcer, for example, also protects against cloud-related threats thanks to integration with threat intelligence platforms such IBM X-Force Exchange, which monitors over 15 billion security events every day.

The solution gives IT a reason to breathe a sigh of relief, but even though the mobile blind spot is addressed, there is still one missing link to overall mobile success for your organization: enterprise mobility management (EMM).

Combining Cloud Application Security and EMM

A complete EMM solution will provide mobility management and security while integrating seamlessly with the cloud application security solution. It should offer advanced mobility management for better visibility into your company’s mobile work environment, as well as features such as a secure productivity suite featuring containerization to separate the personal and corporate sides of a device, secure document sharing for increased content collaboration, a mobile enterprise gateway for enterprise access, mobile threat management for malware protection and more.

2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Mobility Management Suites: IBM Named EMM Leader Again

With the right security measures, enterprises get cloud application and mobile management, visibility, identity and access control and threat prevention built into a single solution in a way that helps them address the mobile blind spot and overall organizational mobility.

It’s been a big challenge for many businesses to solve — until now. Start speeding up mobile cloud adoption and making your employees more productive today.

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Kevin Olivieri

Online Community and Social Media Manager

Kevin is the Online Community and Social Media Manager at Fiberlink, an IBM Company. He currently manages and writes for the MaaSters Blog, which was named one of the 50 Must-Read IT Blog by Biz Tech Magazine in 2014. Kevin most often writes on the topics of mobility, social media, apps, and mobile security.