Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mobile Brings a New Dimension to the Enterprise Risk Equation

In yesterday's blog we looked at Technical Debt, and how its infosec's habit to lag technology innovation. In the big picture, this approach worked pretty well in the Web, early web security was pretty poor but early websites were mainly proof of concepts and brochureware. As the value of the websites increased, infosec was able to mostly get just enough of the job done and played catchup for the whole decade.

But this catchup approach does not work in Mobile, the first apps are not brochureware, they are financial transactions, medical decision making tools, and real dollars flowing through the apps on day zero! That's 180 degrees different from how the Web evolved, with the Web we waded in the shallow end for years, with Mobile we are diving off the high dive with 1.0.

This risk profile should embolden infosec teams to get active way earlier in the process and to be more prescriptive. But it does not stop there, the nature of the engagement has changed as well, case in point:

The personal data of about 760,000 people was temporarily leaked onto the Internet through an address book application service for smartphones, information security company NetAgent Co. reported.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is set to launch an investigation after being informed of the case Saturday by Tokyo-based NetAgent. The application developer said the data leaked online has been deleted.

The latest version of the application, Zenkoku Denwacho (Nationwide Address Book), has been distributed for Google Inc.'s Android operating system for free since mid-September. It enables users to search information listed in a major address book developed by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., according to NetAgent.

But the application is also designed to send personal data stored in smartphone users' address books, including names and phone numbers, to a rental server.

Such information temporarily became available through the Internet mainly to users of the application, which at least 3,300 people are estimated to have downloaded.

Here we see another dimension to the risk equation for Mobile that enterprises have little experience facing- they are not just providing a browser front end, they are shipping code (apps) to users. The enterprise security team now needs to not only care about the site working on Firefox, IE, and Chrome. They need to care about a whole array of platform and device specific security considerations; ensuring the application does not introduce vulnerabilities, inadvertantly steal or leak data, location, addresses, and more. And its all specific to each Mobile OS.

Because Mobile is a Balkanized environment, platform specific Security architecture and guidance is required to get the job done. This means more up front work, but its essential to avoid mistakes like apps that can leak data or provide entry points for attackers to the Mobile app and data (bad) or enterprise gateway and backend (worse).

Its time for Infosec to step up
Patch and pray is not good enough, enterprise security teams must roll up their sleeves, do the work required to support security services for iOS, Android apps, data, and identity. Nothing is perfect but there are absolutely better and worse ways to implement here, Infosec *should* play a leading role, as the grown up, in practically navigating these choices.

Take a hard look at the Use Cases your company is going Mobile with, this isn't beta brochureware, this is real data, real transactions, real identity, real risk, and real new technology. Now is the time for Infosec to get smart on iOS and Android, and build security in.

Come join two leading experts, Gunnar Peterson and Ken van Wyk, for a Mobile App Security Training - hands on iOS and Android security, in San Jose, California, on November 5-7, 2012.

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