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Mobile Application Management and the Importance of Enterprise Application Security

By CIOReview | Friday, August 12, 2016

The time, when an employee has to be onsite to carry out a process is rapidly disappearing. The coming of mobile devices has brought about a drastic change in the working class of businesses. The capability to work from anywhere at any time has in many ways improved the productivity of workforces and organizations from around the world. In almost all industries, mobile deployments have become a status quo. Thanks to these devices, any kind of problem or obstacle, like natural disasters or other such issues will not hinder the running of the business as the employees can work remotely.

One crucial thing that all the ITs have begun to realize is that it is not all about the devices alone. If not for the applications that run on them, the devices themselves are of no great use. Applications are the gateways through which the workers access the required details from the site and how they communicate and collaborate with their colleagues to carry out a process. But as in any gateway, there are always security and hacking risks involved within the applications.

In order to tackle such issues, organizations have started acknowledging the importance of Mobile Application Managemen(MAM). MAM involves software and services responsible for provisioning internally developed and commercially available mobile apps. They assist in the secure selection and management of applications. They also oversee software delivery, software licensing, configuration, application life cycle management (ALM) and usage tracking. Many Mobile Application Managers available in the market allow corporate to choose and control the data that can be shared among the mobile applications. An important requirement for any MAM software is that it provides corporate network administrators with the ability to wipe corporate mobile apps and data from an end user's device remotely.

With MAM now in the scenario, there are certain methods to which organizations can resort to evaluate the available applications.

When we talk about apps, they are of two kinds. The first kind of applications is the in-house applications that are developed and owned by the organization themselves. The second is the ones that are commercially available. Firms can opt to use third party applications for their business processes. In case of the former, as the applications are self developed, the organization can add in the characteristics it requires to the app and it can control its working. But in case of the commercial ones, the MAMs should be able to aid the organization in blacklisting corrupt or questionable applications, which have the potential to bring about major ramifications in the way organizations run. The devices brought into the workplace, be it corporate owned or personal devices, must adhere to the organization’s overall policies for security and privacy.

Although building an in-house application seems like an interesting prospect, it is not feasible for everyone, especially in a financial point of view, since it requires a lot of investment. For smaller companies and startups, it is advisable to approach Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). Leading ISVs like Oracle and SAP offer pre-defined and professionally developed suites that allow mobile access to their systems. If an organization employs one of these ISVs, then the employees can easily access the company’s data. Plus, the ISVs that are being considered are well established and specialize in this area. So the security issues and other risks are considerably diminished.

Another approach to managing the applications is through app containerization. It is an Operating System level virtualization method for deploying and running distributed applications without launching an entire virtual machine (VM) for each app. Instead, multiple isolated systems are run on a single control host and access a single kernel. It restricts apps from accessing countless back-end systems and a hoard of sensitive data.

Another way to secure an application is through app wrapping, where security libraries are incorporated into the mobile app binary. Here, the user does not need to build components into the original app. Organization can also go for Software Development kits, where the developer has to build security components into the applications. Although building it is technically challenging, it provides granular control over the security.