As the world becomes more contactless, the usage of mobile devices at work has witnessed a tremendous boost, so as have their associated security risks. Unmanaged devices are less secure and not commonly monitored compared to company-owned workstations, making them more susceptible to cyberattacks.

Microsoft Digital Defense Report found that over the past year, over 80% of ransomware attacks originated from unmanaged devices. Aside from ransomware, unmanaged devices are considered a primary vehicle used by threat actors to infiltrate target enterprise computer networks.

To counter the numerous cyberattacks caused by exploiting unmanaged device attack surfaces, organizations have begun to use Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions to secure their remote workforce.

Understanding Mobile Device Management (MDM)

MDM is a security solution that controls mobile device behavior based on the organization's predefined security policies. The term MDM as a technical solution was first used in 2001 when companies began to leverage mobile computing devices at work, such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and the early tablets such as Compaq TC1000.

Although MDM refers to mobile computing devices such as smartphones and tablets, you will often hear the term UEM (Unified Endpoint Management) which can be deployed on fixed devices like laptops in addition to mobile devices and IoT Devices.

Organizations must take more security measures to secure their data on mobile devices. For instance, the remote working trend continues to grow (32.6 million Americans will work remotely by 2025), which means more employees will use their mobile devices to access corporate resources remotely.

This will significantly increase the attack surface as cybercriminals will maximize their attacks against vulnerable mobile endpoints. Without a robust mobile device management solution, organizations are sailing blind and leaving themselves easy targets to data breaches.

Key Features of Mobile Device Management Services

An MDM solution will allow organizations to monitor their mobile devices and secure them all the time. Here are the main features that we expect from an MDM solution:

  • Security capabilities: The main aim of MDM is to protect data stored on an organization's mobile device. The MDM solution should provide the following main security capabilities:
    • Encryption: The MDM solution should encrypt all data on the device, such as files, emails, and application data.
    • Device security configurations: Such as enforcing password security requirements to protect business-related applications.
    • Access controls: The MDM can enforce specific security criteria to allow devices access to corporate data and applications. For example, if the device is not up-to-date and its user is not authenticated, then the MDM should prevent them from accessing the company email system.
  • Authentication and authorization: Employees may use their devices to access organization-sensitive business data remotely. MDM authenticates users (e.g., via Multi-factor authentication) and enforces granular access controls (authorization) to protect sensitive work-device data
  • Over-the-air (OTA) distribution: To manage mobile devices remotely, the MDM solution should receive configuration settings (e.g., security patches, policy changes) and update wirelessly without the need to reconfigure devices physically.
  • Remote troubleshooting: MDM solutions should support troubleshooting devices remotely without the need to bring them physically to the IT department. For example, IT administrators can remotely manage mobile devices' operating systems and application updates.
  • Remote wiping: If a mobile device is lost or stolen. The MDM solution can issue a remote wipe to destroy critical business data to prevent unauthorized access.
  • GPS tracking & Geo-fencing capabilities: MDM solutions support tracking mobile devices using GPS sensors and can also allow for geo-fencing of devices based on location.

The Benefits of Implementing MDM

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from leveraging mobile device management services. Here are the most prominent ones:

Improve Security

MDM solutions provide an efficient mean to secure remote workforce. For instance, MDM can:

  • Protect sensitive work data and applications via encryption, secure isolation of work-related data from users personal data, and implement rough access controls.
  • Physical unauthorized access to mobile device data is among the top threats facing mobile device users. MDM supports wiping data remotely to prevent data breaches in the case of lost or stolen devices.

Meet Compliance And Other Industry-Specific Data Protection Requirements

MDM allows organizations to meet compliance requirements concerning data privacy and security. For instance, CMMC (Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification), HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) SP 800-124r2 require organizations to encrypt sensitive data on mobile devices.

Increase Productivity

When the workforce is distributed across different geographical locations, managing mobile devices will become time-consuming for IT departments. For example, An MDM solution can:

  • Deploy business applications remotely.
  • Implement security policies on all connected devices, which helps standardization.
  • Reduce support tickets, as individual users can perform tasks without needing help from support staff – such as password resetting.
  • Facilitate collaborations between diverse teams – an MDM solution can allow sharing files and business documents with different users securely.

Challenges and Considerations in MDM Deployment

Despite their benefits, deploying an MDM solution will incur challenges, such as:

  1. Various mobile operating systems: Company’s may not have all the same types of devices. For example, today's modern workspaces include a mix of mobile devices running Android, iOS, and even Linux. To overcome this problem, many MDM solutions are able to support multiple operating systems.
  2. Technical integration: An MDM solution works best when integrated with the company's IT infrastructure. It is best to check compatibility and consult a mobile security expert to help you find the best MDM solution for your company’s needs.
  3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Many companies allow employees to use their personal devices for work. This introduces another challenge: installing an MDM agent on employees' mobile devices and addressing users' privacy concerns. It is worth noting that Corporate-owned devices are easier to manage than BYOD. This is because the company owns the device and can configure them as they please for increased security and compliance.

MDM Best Practices and Compliance

Deploying an MDM solution isn't a one-time fix to solve all your mobile devices' security. It requires continuous monitoring to get its complete value. Here are some MDM best practices to stay on top of:

Keep It Updated

Like software programs, an MDM agent is a software program that requires continual updates. The device's underlying operating system also needs updating and patching vulnerabilities before they get exploited by threat actors.

Remain In Compliance

Like any software solution that collects, processes, and governs access to sensitive data, MDM solutions should align with data protection laws your company follows like NIST, HIPPA, PCI DSS and CMM. Your MDM solution should provide a way to prove compliance with them – such as audit trails to demonstrate compliance.

Continuously Monitoring

MDM cannot work with the "set it and forget it." Mentality. Continuous monitoring is critical to ensure the MDM is effective. It is vital to track mobile device health, app usage, and security compliance to identify and address potential issues instantly.

These best practices will help you to leverage MDM to its full capabilities. Managed Mobility Services are a service to help maintain compliancy and best practices without having to hire a dedicated staff member.

MDM Closing Thoughts

Mobile Device Management is critical in managing mobile devices in increasingly complex IT environment. As organizations continue to leverage mobile devices for facilitating business processes and connecting to remote resources, MDM offers centralized control, security, and efficiency in managing these devices.

Like any technology, MDM comes with challenges. However, with careful consideration of these challenges and proper implementation, MDM can play a key role in digital transformation, enabling organizations to thrive in an increasingly mobile-centric world.

Troy Mobility has 15+ years of experience consulting, implementing, and managing mobile device management (MDM), unified endpoint management (UEM), and mobile threat defense (MTD) solutions through our leading managed mobility service offering. We have worked with 150+ companies across the globe, and we have a portfolio of 12+ industry-leading mobile security solutions, there is no other company with as much experience and objective guidance as Troy Mobility when it comes to the mobile security industry.