Symantec enhances security for mobile devices

LAS VEGAS—This year more mobile devices will be sold than PCs. Tablets are growing at a faster rate than any other device. Apple sold one million iPad 2 tablets in the first week of its launch. By 2014 there will be 10 billion smart devices connected to the internet. And the amount of data being put on those mobile devices is growing at a rate of 4,000 per cent.

The problem for many companies is that those devices are ending up on the corporate network. And that leads to questions regarding security and privacy, not to mention management headaches for the IT department.

“So how do we protect those devices?” said Enrique Salem, Symantec’s president and CEO, at Symantec Vision conference being held here this week. Eighty-eight per cent of Fortune 500 companies plan to allow employees to bring their own devices to work—but the problem is they still want control over those devices. And employees want to make sure their privacy is being protected.

“The device is irrelevant,” said Salem. Instead, it’s about managing the information and applications on those devices, both for the protection of employees’ personal information and the company’s critical data.

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, in 2010 attackers unleashed more than 286 million malicious programs, an average of more than nine new threats every second of every day. And while there was a 93 per cent increase in Web-based attacks, there were also 42 per cent more mobile vulnerabilities. And that means the mobile platform is becoming a bigger target.

At Vision, Symantec announced new capabilities in Symantec Protection Center 2.0, a centralized security management console that allows organizations to identify emerging threats and prioritize them based on “actionable” intelligence from its Global Intelligence Network.

The security vendor also announced that Symantec Endpoint Protection 12 is now available for public beta. It uses Insight, Symantec’s cloud-based reputation technology, and is optimized for virtual environments, and is scheduled to be generally available later this year.

We’re seeing a shift in end user compute models, said Art Gilliland, vice-president of product management with Symantec’s enterprise product group. The challenge for organizations is managing their users on multiple mobile devices and segregating corporate data from private data.

“From a corporation’s perspective, it’s a lot of work to manage this new paradigm around application delivery and the fact there’s going to be heterogeneity in their environment,” said Gilliland. Not only do they have to manage a number of different platforms for end devices, they also have to contend with cloud services, software-as-a-service and virtualization. The focus for Symantec right now is to manage that heterogeneity from one point of contact, he said.

More devices means there are more points for information to leave the company — or to be leaked in an uncontrolled fashion, said Michelle Warren, principal analyst with Toronto-based MW Research & Consulting. Each device—whether Microsoft, Apple, Google or RIM—communicates with different languages, using different protocols.

“The challenge is that IT departments need an understanding of the various languages. Not everyone has the budget to employ experts, hence the need for product offerings such as Symantec’s announcement today,” she said.

In the past, organizations just banned different devices. “Obviously, that isn’t an option today,” said Warren. Now the approach is to allow different devices, but manage them. Software is generally the answer, she said, since it’s less expensive than hiring experts specific in certain languages or training employees.

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