Mobilisafe Cloud Solution Assesses BYOD Risks to Businesses

The startup’s Mobile Risk Management offering is designed to offer IT complete visibility into the security risks posed by the mobile devices accessing the corporate network.

Mobilisafe is looking to give businesses the information they need when dealing with the burgeoning bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, trend.

The two-year-old company is launching its Mobile Risk Management offering, a cloud-based solution designed to give IT administrators a complete picture of the risks to their companies posed by employee-owned devices looking to access the corporate network and data.

The solution, launched June 4, gives administrators real-time visibility of all such devices connecting to the network and assesses the risks involved with each one, from the level of security on the devices to whether the firmware has been upgraded to whether applications on them are malware or spyware, according to founder and CEO Giri Sreenivas.

The information is collected by Mobilisafe€™s software, and analyzed and made available to administrators via a dashboard, Sreenivas said.

€œThis helps companies understand the risks with these devices coming€ into them through their networks, he told eWEEK.

The BYOD trend has been fueled by the rapid growth in the adoption of smartphones and tablets, and employee demands to be able to use what devices they€™re most comfortable with in the workplace. For businesses, the benefits include reduced capital costs€”if employees are using their own devices, companies don€™t have to pay for them€”and increased worker productivity. However, BYOD also poses management and security problems, with IT administrators looking for ways to protect corporate data.

In the past, most companies would issue their employees BlackBerry devices, which offer a level of security that Apple and Android-based devices don€™t, Sreenivas said. Now businesses have to find ways to ensure that the devices being used by workers don€™t threaten the company€™s network and data.

It€™s a trend that€™s not going away. Cisco Systems in a survey in May found that 95 percent of respondents said their organizations allow employee-owned devices in the workplace, and that 76 percent said BYOD was somewhat or extremely positive for their companies while challenging for IT. In addition, Cisco said the average number of connected devices per knowledge worker will grow from 2.8 this year to 3.3 by 2014.

Mobilisafe€™s Sreenivas said that given such trends, IT administrators need a way to continuously monitor and assess each device to find any vulnerabilities that could open up the businesses to risks.

With Mobilisafe€™s Mobile Risk Management, businesses can get up and running quickly, he said. The software can be set up in less than 15 minutes, and doesn€™t require any new hardware or network adjustments, and doesn€™t need a software agent running in the device. Instead, companies deploy the software components onto existing servers to help in discovering devices on the network, monitoring and assessing them, and enforcing access controls.

As each device is discovered, the software assesses the risks involved with each and rates their trustworthiness on a 10-point system. A key part of the system is that it also puts some of the onus of reducing the risk onto the workers, Sreenivas said. If a mobile device needs to update their security or install a software patch, the software alerts administrators and the device users.

€œEmployees play a pretty big role in this,€ he said.

Through Mobilisafe€™s solution, IT staff also can establish access controls and other policies, including giving employees a certain amount of time to update their firmware or security or risk getting blocked from the network. With the software, IT administrators can send downloaded links and instructions to employees to make it easier for them to bring their devices into compliance.

That€™s increasingly important for businesses, Sreenivas said. A recent survey by Mobilisafe found that 64 percent of Apple iOS devices and 40 percent of devices with Google€™s Android OS are running out-of-date firmware.

Mobilisafe is offering a 30-day free trial of the software, with pricing starting at about $4 per user per month. Sreenivas said he wanted to establish a per-user pricing model rather than per-device to make it more cost effective for businesses, given that users tend to have more than one mobile device.