BYOD: IT claims security fears but blocks Angry Birds instead

Zenprise survey of what policies businesses actually apply to smartphones and tablets yields surprising conclusions

Did you know that Angry Birds and Facebook represent the biggest mobile app concerns within IT? That's what Zenprise's analysis of its Zencloud mobile device management (MDM) users found. Ironically, companies are much less likely to block cloud storage apps such as Dropbox and or cloud-based note-taking apps such as Evernote that some claim pose a significant threat of sensitive corporate data being lost.

As marketing VP chief Ahmed Datoo notes, companies typically buy MDM tools because of security issues relating to user access to corporate email and other data. Yet they actually blocking apps that are alleged to reduce employee productivity -- never mind that most such devices are actually owned by employees who use them off hours or that employee productivity is a management issue, not a technological one. (Datoo expects user pushback to change such policies over time.) And perhaps the relatively low level of cloud-storage blockage indicates productivity benefits outweigh security fears in actual practice. 

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Another surprising conclusion in the analysis of companies' policies is that only 29 percent of devices under management require users to have a passcode to operate their mobile devices -- fears of strangers accessing corporate data on mobile devices is an oft-cited rationale for MDM. And 29 percent of devices have VPN preconfigured by IT for the users; Datoo finds this figure surprisingly high and an indication that companies are more trusting of employees than is commonly believed.

About 14 percent of devices have some form of built-in hardware (camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and so on) or built-in apps (such as the mobile OS's app store or iTunes) turned off by an MDM policy. Perhaps concerned about executives having their locations revealed through services such as Foursquare and Twitter, 12 percent of devices had GPS disabled via policies. Only 2 percent of devices were forced to use sophisticated MDM policies such as certificate-based authentication.

The Zenprise device analysis also found that among Zencloud customers, Europeans were much more likely to have iOS devices than North American firms: 67 percent versus 54 percent. Android numbers were fairly equivalent: 29 percent in Europe and 34 percent in North America. Windows Mobile, the predecessor to Windows Phone, accounts for 14 percent of North American devices, which likely reflects the large numbers still in use by government agencies, versus just 4 percent in Europe. Data on Research in Motion is unavailable as such devices can be managed by its own BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) product only.

This article, "BYOD: IT claims security fears but blocks Angry Birds instead," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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