“That risk is growing over time as the devices are being permitted to access more and more confidential data and people are simply using more and more unknown and unverified applications on their devices,” said Tyler Lessard, the chief marketing officer at Fixmo, a mobile security company.
“It’s not something that is just a small-business thing,” he continued. “We’re talking about major companies that have serious regulatory requirements that are embracing the bring-your-own-device approach.”
Briggs at Deloitte said employers have generally become more savvy about cybersecurity in recent years as they move more operations online, store information in off-site data centers and accommodate a wired workforce. Mobile is simply the latest frontier, he said.
“Scenarios that you never worried about on the laptop become the barriers to mobile,” Briggs said. “It’s how do you move from imaginable risk to acceptable risk. And that’s what has to happen.”
New cybersecurity firms are jumping into the breach. Firms such as Sterling-based Fixmo are crafting businesses that help corporations maintain their data privacy and security as a growing number of personal devices connect to their networks.
Fixmo’s software allows a business to partition a smartphone or tablet into sections so employers can monitor the security settings of apps that are used exclusively for business purposes while allowing the remainder of the device to stay in the employee’s control.
“You can’t completely eliminate the risk,” Lessard said. “Security is not about fully eliminating the risks. It’s about how do you manage it.”
Building for multiple platforms
The variety of makes and models presents another difficulty for companies embracing mobile devices and apps. Smartphone users have no shortage of options when it comes to devices with operating systems from Apple, Google, BlackBerry or Microsoft Windows.
Each mobile platform requires a company to build separate versions of the same app, an endeavor that can be both time consuming and expensive, depending on the app’s complexity.
“If you look at how often all of the mobile platforms change ... when you do an app as a CIO, you’re effectively shifting to a product-management mentality,” Briggs said. “For a lot of companies, that’s not where they want to be.”
That predicament prompted the creators of Dasdak, a company that facilitates mobile food orders at restaurants and sporting venues, to build their software on a Web page. It allows any device with an Internet connection — thus, every smartphone — to interact with the same page.
“I can build it once and focus on more functionality features to help people,” said Swaptak Das, the firm’s founder.
Dasdak began as an internal project. Das wanted to provide faster, more seamless service to patrons at Shadow Room, a lounge he owns on K Street NW. So he outfitted the lounge with touch-screen computers where customers could place drink orders or buy liquor by the bottle. The order would then be put into a queue monitored by the venue’s staff. No lingering at the bar. No flagging down a waiter.
The technology has progressed since then. Patrons can now order directly from their own mobile devices and the software is being piloted at RFK Stadium for fans who want to summon beer or nachos with the swipe of a finger.
“It’s all Web-based, so if it’s a small screen, the system will automatically recognize and fit [that],” Das said.
Regardless of whether companies build traditional apps or Web sites that are optimized for a mobile phone’s screen, the transition to mobile computing is well under way at businesses big and small.
“We have seen a tsunami of apps in the workplace — for smart-phones, for tablets, and for specialized devices — across every industry sector, function and business process domain,” Briggs said.
And many firms aren’t stopping at one.
“When you get one of these devices, you don’t download one app. You download hundreds of apps to help you do hundreds of things better,” said Owen at MicroStrategy. “Organizations are going to do the same.”