Trend Micro highlights maturity in mobile security

With the release of Mobile Security 5.0, Trend Micro says it has created a mobile security package on par with desktop suites -- something IT workers have clamored for

Security software maker Trend Micro maintains that enterprises are already shopping for integrated packages of anti-malware and encryption tools for use in smartphones and other mobile devices.

In releasing the fifth version of its Mobile Security suite on Monday, the vendor contends that it has created a similar level of functionality and performance in its handheld package that it has been working to build into its desktop security applications over a decade of development.

While smartphones themselves and enterprise installations of the devices remain somewhat nascent, enterprise IT departments are already looking for a level of parity between mobile device security technologies and much older desktop and laptop protection tools, company officials contend.

As enterprise smart phones users have driven adoption of data-centric mobile applications, including wireless e-mail and customer CRM systems, companies have begun to view the need to lock down handheld devices much the same as they see requirements to protect their other computers.

"By some estimates there may be as many as seven million smartphones that are lost or stolen in the next year, so companies are looking for protection that rivals what they already do for the desktop or, more specifically, the laptop," said Todd Thiemann, director for device security marketing at Trend Micro. "The types of malware attacks we're seeing on mobile devices are relatively measured thus far, but the demand to offer more advanced encryption, authentication, and security management technologies for enterprise customers is already there."

Echoing some of the same market observations made by rivals, including Symantec, McAfee, and F-Secure, Thieman said that Trend has found that many of its large multinational customers are already knee-deep into their worldwide smartphone installations.

With a growing number of regulatory mandates forcing businesses to better track and secure the information flowing across all of their devices, along with an increasing range of laws aimed at pushing companies to improve protection of sensitive data, enterprises are already asking for mobile security suites that blend encryption, authentication, intrusion detection, and anti-malware tools into a centrally-managed package, Thiemann said.

As such, Trend is now offering all of those tools and has fleshed-out integration between the various applications in an effort to establish its Mobile Security 5.0 offering as one of the most comprehensive and mature sets of mobile device security applications on the market.

Even if companies aren't ready to turn all the mobile security tools right away, companies are looking for platforms that they can install now and roll out over time, according to the company.

Some companies prefer to let mobile OS makers handle security
"Companies are already taking more of an integrated approach than they took on the desktop; they're telling us that they don't want to support two or three different security applications on these devices because the handhelds don't have as much memory or storage capacity as a laptop," Thiemann said.

"The biggest issue right now for most enterprises is data leakage; they realize that in that regard, they need to apply the same level of rigor in protecting the mobile device that they have on the desktop, and that's driving demand for encryption and many of these other tools," he said.

In addition to the package's AV, firewall, intrusion detection, authentication, and encryption capabilities, Trend said that it is already differentiating from its rivals via integration of the mobile package with its OfficeScan Client/Server Edition 8.0 module -- which can be used to manage policies across Trend's entire desktop and network security lineup.

The company also hopes to win deals based on its work to tie the security package to the Windows Mobile and Symbian mobile device operating systems. While Symbian remains less used than other device OS platforms in North America, having the ability to support devices running on the software will be a key to winning deals with multinational enterprises, Trend officials contend.

However, some industry watchers said that overall demand for mobile device security applications remains scant.

While a handful large government entities and enterprise customers in highly-regulated industries, such as the financial services market, may be looking for advanced handheld protection capabilities, most companies are not ready to open the purse strings to buy more of the tools.

In North America, BlackBerry handhelds made by Research In Motion remain the most popular enterprise mobility devices, and the handhelds already have a strong level of authentication and encryption engrained into their operating systems, said John Pescatore, analyst with Gartner.

Outside of the BlackBerry environment, most enterprises are still dealing with the issue of supporting a wide variety of devices and operating systems, making it less feasible for them to standardize security systems, he said. And with the Windows Mobile platform, customers will wait for Microsoft to build its own security features into future iterations of the OS, the analyst said.

"When the next version of Windows Mobile comes out, Microsoft will have baked a lot more security functions into its software, so customers buying those handhelds will likely rely on those features for encryption and authentication," Pescatore said. "There will likely be some demand for additional mobile security tools from the military and some high-end segments including financial services, but the average enterprise doesn't have handheld security on their budget yet."