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Zenprise Retools For Security

Ah, the dreaded consumerization of IT. Chances are you're as guilty as the rest of us when it comes to getting a little too familiar with the company-issued smartphone.  Sure, you've rationalized away putting skee ball on the iPhone as a harmless distraction, and your kids like to play Angry Birds on "your" device when they get bored.  You've simply gotten used to seeing the business-oriented icons next to the ones that launch the fun stuff, and it's all very comfortable to have the work apps mixed with the home apps on "your" smartphone.  Sound familiar? The problem is that the device is still a company computing platform, regardless of its mobility and portability. But abusing it just got quite a bit more difficult with Zenprise's latest Mobile Manager enhancements and new Mobile Gateway application.

Ultra-portability is certainly empowering, but it means your security concerns extend to wherever the device and the data it holds (and accesses) are.  Whereas the company laptop fleet is typically locked down quite well, many employers are slow to realize the risks of not treating smartphones and tablets with the same level of caution and control.  While you'd have to work pretty hard to junk up a laptop with dozens of foolish or harmful programs in the course of a long meeting, the exercise is child's play for the app-happy with time to kill. And when employees are allowed to use their own smartphones to access the employer's crown jewels, the worry factor climbs by an order of magnitude, as even guiding policy becomes hard to clearly write.

Back to Zenprise. Just when I thought the mobile device management space amounted to several companies all trying to outmarket each other with very few real differentiators, something new and cool comes along in the form of Zenprise's Mobile Gateway. As an accompanying service to the company's latest version of MobileManager (6.1), MobileGateway behaves like a firewall for applications. Applications are white/black-listed for Android and iOS platforms, and quarantine features make managing smartphones more in line with established laptop management mechanisms. Got a device loaded up with junk after the kids played with it on vacation? Don't expect to get to the corporate network from it. The idea is not so much heavy-handed usage restriction as it is reconciling user behaviors with the complexities of a network edge that is getting ever more difficult to define.

Current customers are likely to appreciate an enhancement to the Zenprise Enterprise App Store that makes it easier for clients to stay out of trouble when navigating a sea of available apps. Zenprise already makes the configuration and provision of sanctioned apps easy for administrators, but the new IT Favorites feature knows when a user installs an app outside of the approved list and prevents it from launching. There's enough feedback to differentiate policy violation from device malfunction when launch of prohibited apps is attempted. Zenprise's latest also combines contextual aware device security with App Tunnels, which give mobile users encrypted access to specific business applications, and indeed the whole framework certainly takes on the look and feel of a legitimate layered network security posture. It just so happens that client devices are not PCs in this equation; they are mobile devices.

If I believe the hundreds of tweets a day that fly across my account, the endless stream of apps (and the new devices that run them) is a tide that will never be turned back. At the same time, many companies ignore what the fancy "phones" have going on, to their own detriment. Out of app chaos, order not only can come but simply must if mobile devices are to become anything beyond an insider threat to companies that allow and promote their use.  As I play around with Zenprise's latest offerings, I'm glad to see the mobile device management space get closer in feel to security imposed on computers, back in the day.