Sprint Debuts Managed Mobile Device Security Services

Through a new partnership with software maker Mobile Armor, Sprint will offer managed services to enterprises for securing their laptops and mobile devices.

Wireless carrier Sprint launched a new set of managed security services for mobile devices including laptop computers that is built around applications provided by software maker Mobile Armor.

Labeled as Sprint Mobile Security, the service will seek to provide complete protection for mobile devices, including data encryption and other endpoint defense tools, and will be marketed as an add-on to the Overland Park, Kan.-based companys Mobility Management offering.

The larger package promises complete outsourced administration and management of handhelds and other mobile devices, from billing to applications delivery, and promises to help integrate control of wireless services provided by multiple carriers and hardware running on different operating systems.

Company officials said that the new security package, announced Sept. 19 at the ongoing Interop conference in New York, will serve three major purposes in helping companies using mobile devices to improve data protection, prevent threats including mobile malware, and ensure compliance with federal regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The use of the Mobile Armor technologies replaces Sprints previous security package that was built around device management and security tools made by Intellisync, a division of wireless handheld maker Nokia.

In the area of data protection, the Sprint-Mobile Armor tools will allow users to assign fixed passwords to every mobile device, giving customers the choice to use traditional PINs or newer, color-coded credentials to sign onto their handhelds and laptops.

Along with a mobile VPN (virtual private network) application for connecting to corporate systems, the managed service will also allow firms to encrypt both individual files and entire device memories, including removable storage cards, to help safeguard data residing on handhelds and laptops.

For threat protection, Sprint is promising to defend devices against a range of malware attacks including worms and Trojan viruses that are typically used to deliver other forms of IT threats such as spyware.

While common in the laptop world, such attacks on wireless handhelds have yet to arrive in large numbers.

The service offers to scan mobile devices for attacks and remove any unwanted malware code, and features a mobile firewall that can be used like its desktop counterparts to stop denial-of-service attempts and restrict network traffic based on a number of factors including the datas source, destination and IP (Internet protocol) details.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the threat-oriented service is its promised ability to allow enterprises to lock-down access to devices that have been lost or stolen and even allow firms to remotely delete files residing on those machines after they have gone missing.

Sprint is betting that the feature could help it win deals with customers who fear the fallout related to the loss of mobile devices, such as the firestorm of controversy that erupted after a contractor for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had a laptop containing the records of over 26.5 million people stolen from a home earlier in 2006.

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Related to compliance, Sprint said that service will allow users to enforce mobile device security policies to ensure that users are only allowed to run employer-approved applications are on their laptops and handhelds, and promises the ability for network administrators to manage as many as 150 requirements per device from a single online portal.

The package offers automatic remediation that will remove unapproved programs or profiles from mobile devices automatically, without requiring end user intervention.

While the threat of mobile malware designed specifically to attack handheld phones remains low, because very few of those type of threats have been discovered, the packaging of those tools with laptop protection, a pressing issue for most enterprises, should drive adoption of the services, said Bryan Glancey, chief executive of Mobile Armor, based in St. Louis.

Companies are already looking to better secure handhelds as they scramble to address laptop security issues, he said.

Sprint will also offer device security consulting services to customers using Mobile Armors technologies and staff, he said.

"Enterprises want to deploy more mobile devices, and security is holding this back, both for laptops and more powerful handhelds like smart phones," said Glancey.

"We think customers will like the idea of being able to pass along responsibility for laptop security now, with the knowledge that they will be protected when the mobile malware starts showing up more frequently."

Glancey said that a handful of Sprints large enterprise customers are already piloting the managed security service, including Boeing and American Airlines.

Sprint and Mobile Armor expect the service to protect more than a million mobile devices in several years time.

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