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Are We Changing Our Views of Mobile Technologies?

Are We Changing Our Views of Mobile Technologies?
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By Dr. Kevin Harris
Program Director, Cybersecurity, Information Systems Security and Information Technology, American Military University

The battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is requiring organizations to rapidly create safer environments for their customers, clients and employees. The increased use of mobile technologies can reduce opportunities for the virus to be spread through surface contamination. Government agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs are moving to a paperless environment to possibly reduce the spread of the pandemic, as shown in a notice to GI Bill students and certifying officials.

Organizations such as NexGen Solutions have developed full-scale COVID solutions for contract tracing, touchless body temperature scanning, geofencing to prevent unwanted intrusions, delivery of health assessments and critical medical updates, all through smartphones.

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Most Large Organizations Viewed Personally Owned Devices as a High-Risk Security Threat

Traditionally most large organizations viewed personally owned, bring your own devices (BYOD) as a high-risk security threat, and avoided integrating these external devices into strategic plans to reduce risks. Make no mistake: insider threats are real. To reduce the possibility of data being exfiltrated through rogue hotspots, saving information to mobile devices or other attacks, implementing mitigation steps is imperative especially since more are working remotely as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Various solutions are being implemented to allow users to access sensitive data on devices not controlled by the organization. Recent innovations, including COVID-19 advances, may encourage organizational attitudes to change about personal mobile devices when they are within a strong cybersecurity framework.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Smart phones can have a positive effect on security when they are effectively implemented into business processes. One such implementation is multi-factor authentication; that is, strengthening existing passwords by requiring users to provide a code sent to their phone for login, biometrics, or company-supplied tokens. Using mobile devices will allow organizations to strengthen their protection of digital assets where cost might prohibit providing individual hardware access tokens to every team member.

Not only can access to buildings can be granted or denied based on a user’s mobile device, but administrators can remotely monitor entrances and quickly disable access using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near-Field Communication (NFC) technologies. Higher education institutions where students frequently misplace keys or ID cards have embraced such technology from a variety of vendors including RemoteLock which has additional benefits.

Additional Corporate Considerations

Retail establishments are giving customers a store app to scan prices directly, improving the customer experience. Security guards on patrol can quickly verify individuals by accessing an employee badging system app on approved devices instead of relying on information provided by a dispatcher at a security station.

Healthcare facilities and other organizations concerned about sharing sensitive information via text messages have deployed messaging apps that offer secure mobile flexibility. Technologies such as Google Voice

Changing thoughts

Security must remain at the forefront to minimize vulnerabilities and lower organizational risk levels. Also, innovative environments should be encouraged, which often drive competitive advantages.

Although smart phone technology is not new, its integration into business processes is being reprioritized partly due to COVID-19 and to the growing expansion of 5G networks. High speed networks coupled with powerful mobile phones have spurred many organizations to reconsider how to use their mobile devices.

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Harris is the Program Director for Cybersecurity, Information Systems Security and Information Technology at American Military University. With over 25 years of industry experience, Dr. Harris has protected a variety of organizational infrastructure and data in positions ranging from systems analyst to chief information officer.

His career encompasses diverse experiences both in information technology and academia. His research and passion are in the areas of cybersecurity, bridging the digital divide, and increasing diversity in the tech community. As an academic leader, Dr. Harris has instructed students at various institutions, including community colleges, HBCUs, public, private, graduate, undergraduate and online. He has trained faculty from multiple institutions in the area of cybersecurity as part of a National Science Foundation multistate CSEC grant.

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