By Vaidyanathan Iyer, Security Software Leader, IBM India/South Asia
Today, the biggest test chief information security officers (CISOs) face is to find the perfect balance between watertight security and seamless user experience across all the endpoints in their network. This even as the traditional management of endpoints has undergone a sea change from a decade ago when all devices were on-premises. Present-day CISOs find themselves in a quagmire as end-users access an unprecedented number of devices and applications outside the premises. In this article, we take a look at the challenges and also look ahead at the future of endpoint management.
The quagmire of devices and apps
Consumerization of information technology (IT) over the last many years led to the rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) processes on the enterprise side. This means enterprises had to contend with all major operating systems like Apple iOS, macOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows and a host of applications. On the other hand, the proliferation of smartphones expanded the use cases for businesses while also bringing along more security challenges for them. After all, mobile data can inherently expose them to countless risks stemming from its transmission, storage, and overall protection mechanisms.
Apart from the above challenges, they needed to ensure compliance with local, national and global regulations and emerging data privacy concerns. Above all, companies needed to put in place a strong mobile security strategy. At the same time, the focus on employee experience was picking up. Digital workspaces for users with personalized enterprise app catalog became imperative for seamless user experience across devices. Enterprises had to build capabilities to recommend apps based on user behavior.
The need for the tools and resources required to balance the benefits of mobility with its associated risks led to the metamorphosis of mobile device management (MDM) into Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM). However, over the last couple of years, EMM solutions have lost relevance as manual assessment and remediation put businesses at risk.
Traditional enterprise mobility management losing relevance
Conventional EMM was proving to be time-consuming, as IT was saddled with mountains of endpoint data. The limited resources at disposal to solve limitless issues made it inefficient. For example, with EMM, IT managers while investigating potential malware attacks had to manually assess and research the potential malware threats, identify remediation methods and manually resolve for each of the devices. In instances of new regulations or legal ramifications, they needed to talk to their legal team to find out if they affected the current security policies and users and then manually remediate the issues. Besides, the system was becoming expensive as point solution investments became a norm to address gaps in the operating system (OS) support across available tools.
In such a scenario, IT managers were stuck on a path of business upkeep instead of business transformation. They faced roadblocks to actualize the full potential of the endpoints and, ultimately, the workforce. Dead as a dodo, EMM has now morphed into Unified Endpoint Management (UEM).
The move towards unified endpoint management
Businesses must have a holistic view of the devices, users and beyond. A combined view of devices and users will help them pinpoint risky devices and users. They can accordingly, infuse identity authentication and authorization to allow conditional access or turn on multi-factor authentication for risky users. They can gauge the overall enterprise-wide risk exposure. Thus, the centralized nature of UEM reduces the complexity businesses face on a day-to-day basis. More importantly, UEM provides threat management capability on the endpoints besides end-user analysis of apps and their performance to recommend corrective actions.
UEM allows enterprises to put their expensive and ineffective multi-solution dependencies behind them while maintaining protection and control over desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, ruggedized devices, wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) in addition to apps, documents, and data. Normally, UEM platforms support all major OS types, including Apple iOS, macOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows, along with their latest software versions. The right UEM solution also makes it possible for businesses to migrate effortlessly from legacy PC platforms such as Windows 7 to more powerful, modern updates like Windows 10.
Nonetheless, while UEM is valuable, it is just another tool. It needs something more to make it invaluable. Something that will challenge companies to think differently and manage their IT smarter. What is this key element? The answer perhaps lies in cognitive technology.
Benefits of cognitive technology – why is it here to stay
Cognitive capabilities enable organizations to understand vulnerabilities and patches for the infected devices and recommend relevant actions to remediate. Cognitive technology self-discovers and analyses threats and immediately points to the affected devices and recommended steps to fix the problem. It provides an overview of any new regulation that may be in play related to the incident, and potentially how many endpoints are affected. This way, IT managers can move on to the next incident and avoid manual investigation and remediation for each endpoint. Imagine the risk exposure to the organization if they do not get real-time updates and benchmark threats in a world of changing vulnerabilities.
Cognitive lets organizations swim effortlessly in the sea of threats and manage all endpoints in a unified endpoint management console for laptops, tablets PCs, mobile and IoT. A cognitive tool delivers opportunities, risks and general information so IT managers can make sense of the erratic endpoint behavior they encounter every day. Such a solution can source insights from structured and unstructured data, giving administrators, ample, relevant context to make their most important decisions. Each insight could be tailored to the industry, company size and the construct of an enterprise’s external environment, including its devices, platforms, and most commonly used apps.
So Cognitive technology coming into UEM is the future of endpoint management.
Are enterprises prepared?
Now the moot question to ask is, are enterprises confident of combating a zero-day mobile malware threat with their legacy MDM or EMM solutions? Do they perceive they will be able to randomly discover threats, conduct research, determine the impact of the threat on their IT environment and remediate to fix the problem, all on their own without any assistance from intelligent tools? Are they truly confident? The answer would be a resounding “no”.
Whereas with a UEM platform powered by cognitive computing technologies, they can realize new efficiencies from time saved in responding to customers with a rapid, increased opportunity with broad device support and scalable UEM services and security solutions for any compliance requirements.
Compliance requirements could be those such as GDPR. With cognitive technologies, this is just the beginning. As more cognitive capabilities are added, a UEM platform with cognitive technologies will build greater knowledge and context for a smarter approach to securing and enabling endpoints, end-users and everything in between. Enterprises know that their IT environment is getting bigger and busier by the day. However, the IT managers’ role remains the same – they are still tasked with making the most of a tumultuous endpoint environment and making sense of it.
Cognitive capabilities will help organizations realize greater value from a UEM approach and is a step in the right direction. Many organizations have started moving towards a cognitive technology-based UEM platform to not just fight the daily threats but also be future-ready.
The future of endpoint management is cognitive.
Disclaimer: CISO MAG does not endorse any of the claims made by the writer. The facts, opinions, and language in the article do not reflect the views of CISO MAG and CISO MAG does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. Views expressed in this article are personal.