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Mobile Device Security Challenges for Cloud Computing

With an increasing number of mobile device applications being developed or used within the corporate workplace, the economics of cloud computing are beginning to resonate with enterprises. It has become cost-effective for many enterprises to move certain applications to the cloud, from earlier deployments on physical servers in their data centers.

It is now common to hear examples of enterprises deploying their applications in private cloud or public cloud infrastructures:

  • Private cloud: An environment hosted within enterprise premises, but managed and operated by a different vendor, such as a service provider.

  • Public cloud: An environment that is hosted, managed, and operated in a data center accessible to the general public. Applications such as Gmail, Google Apps, and Amazon S3 are examples of public clouds.

As applications move to the cloud, access to them is often facilitated by simple web browsers. This makes access from smartphones easier, but more challenging for the enterprise. No matter where the application is hosted, you need to secure access to it and allow access to only those users whose roles permit it. Managing access to publicly hosted applications on employees’ personal mobile devices is a different proposition.

Enforcing access control to applications has to depend upon the user’s privileges and possibly change depending upon what device or location the user is connecting from. You may want to consider limiting the users’ privileges to just e-mail access when they are using that latest new gadget in the market, but grant them full network access including application access while connecting from their corporate laptop computers.

Whenever you decide to move a certain application (such as e-mail or maybe an HR application) to the cloud, be sure to think about how this will affect access from mobile devices. For example, consider how mobile users will access the application from their smartphones or tablet devices. And think about whether you will assign different access permissions to the user, depending upon whether they are using their Windows PC to access to the application, versus their shiny new Android tablet.

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