Home Security BlackBerry extends endpoint security to 'Enterprise of Things'

BlackBerry extends endpoint security to 'Enterprise of Things'

Research commissioned by BlackBerry and carried out by 451 Research has found that security is a high priority for enterprise IoT deployment.

Two hundred IT decision makers in the US, UK, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Singapore were surveyed. Around half were from organisations with between 249 and 1000 employees, the rest from those with more than 1000.

BlackBerry chief operating officers Marty Beard spoke exclusively to iTWire about the report. He said while the research did not involve a large sample, "exactly the right people" were surveyed.

The research validated BlackBerry's assumptions, he said. Everything is being connected, and the field is moving faster than most enterprises expected, particularly in respect of wearables, sensors, alarms, cameras and so on.

Organisations need a way to manage and secure these devices, which BlackBerry is calling the Enterprise of Things.

Security is very important, as human safety is increasingly involved. BlackBerry has 30 years experience of securing mobile devices, "now we've dramatically expanded that", for example into the automotive arena through BlackBerry's 2010 acquisition of QNX.

The top concern of respondents was security, with 57% saying it was one of the high priorities for their IoT initiatives.

Beard noted that smartphones are already visible and are being managed within organisations, with containers and encryption used to keep corporate and personal data and applications separate.

The right approach, he suggested, is to treat everything as an endpoint, and manage everything via a unified platform. "There needs to be a holistic approach," he told iTWire.

seventy-eight percent of survey respondents indicated interest in a system to manage all endpoints from one place.

But this does present scalability issues due to the potentially huge number of devices used within an organisation. "An individual system might gather and analyse billions of data objects from millions of distinct endpoints presenting unparalleled data collection, processing, storage and networking challenges," observed 451 Research.

Reliability is another significant issue raised in the report. "Some of these systems will be employed for mission-critical applications where system downtime can result in diminished productivity, dissatisfied customers and lost revenue. Others will be deployed in safety-critical applications — in emergency services, medical applications and surveillance solutions, for example — where system downtime could lead to loss of life or property or cause significant environmental or health hazards."

An enterprise mobility management system can potentially treat IoT devices as peers of phones and tablets, covering who is authorised to interact with the device, which user is currently authenticated on the device, what information is stored on the device, what its capabilities are, and check for encryption and security settings.

Adopting this "managed and secured" approach means any anomalies are revealed, he suggested.

This time last year, huge numbers of IoT devices were co-opted into botnets used in large-scale DDoS attacks on DNS provider Dyn, French cloud provider OVH and cyber security journalist Brian Krebs.

"IoT... is actually happening in your company," warned Beard, so you need a way to manage things that were not designed to be managed. It is not just equipment that the organisation is purchasing such as wearables and security cameras, but also items that employees bring to work and others that business partners such as maintenance providers want to connect to your network.

"Massive insecurity is all around us."

In addition to organisations' requirements to manage and secure IoT devices, manufacturers will need to be able to securely update their devices over the internet. "For decades we've lived in that world," he said.

BlackBerry APAC vice-president Paul Crighton said “The Enterprise of Things is a very exciting space. While smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are considered as ‘business as usual’, we see a lot of new types of devices being considered in the workplace such as wearables and head-worn glasses. This is the new normal, and we believe businesses are in a strong position to take advantage of the wide range of possibilities these will offer."

“Organisations need to take proactive steps towards building comprehensive and secure mobility strategies. In particular, moving away from traditional MDM and EMM approaches, towards unified endpoint enterprise management frameworks that are fit for the Enterprise of Things," he added.

“CIOs, CSOs and heads of IT departments need to address these security challenges and collaborate with key business stakeholders to build holistic strategies that can protect the devices (the endpoint), but also and most importantly the data within, both inside and outside of the organisations’ walls. The challenge lies in promoting collaboration and sharing of information without hindering information confidentiality and data security.”

The report concludes "It makes little sense to consider traditional endpoint security and management and emerging IoT programs as definitively separate initiatives. Leaders, especially those not too far down the path with legacy technologies, have the opportunity to bring IoT and enterprise worker digital initiatives together; they face the same challenges and create opportunities to leverage experience and learning in one to apply to the other. Bringing these initiatives under one ‘roof’ will create cost efficiencies by leveraging common platforms and will also require organisations to cross the internal chasms — both technical and cultural — between OT and IT departments."

Read BlackBerry's white paper here.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.