As governments review security exposure, secure unified workspaces lead the way for business

With Australia’s prime minister recently outlining details of nation-state cybersecurity breaches and the US president launching an aggressive push to review and upgrade his government’s information security, data security’s profile has never been higher. And as governments reposition themselves for an age of open cyberwarfare, businesses of all sizes must follow their lead by ensuring that enterprise applications, mobile, and cloud services are wrapped in a layer that can deter compromise and protect sensitive data throughout its lifecycle.

It’s no small challenge, what with increasingly targeted and sophisticated attacks becoming the new normal. Cybercriminals have shifted away from broad-based distribution of generic malware towards more refined attacks that are tailored for particular businesses – whether by targeting specific systems, or by using convincingly crafted emails to trigger financial transfers within the company.

One significant part of the fight against these compromises is to bolster the security of mobile endpoints. Conventional mobile device management (MDM) has long been established as the tool of choice for making this happen – and the market is set to approach $5.5 billion by 2020.

Much of that growth, however, will be driven by emerging as well as established technologies as businesses increasingly realise that all MDM platforms are not created equal.

Indeed, the changing nature of today’s threats has driven continued evolution around MDM by bolstering conventional management of mobile devices with related capabilities for protecting the data on those devices. Those capabilities – such as file encryption, secure document sharing and collaboration and document control – are proving to be increasingly important to enterprise defences in the wake of the deprecation of conventional perimeter security techniques.

Recognition of the need for a broader mobile data defence drove BlackBerry to complement its MDM platform with BlackBerry Workspaces, a leading platform for enterprise file synchronization and sharing.

Built on the leading document-security technology of WatchDox, BlackBerry Workspaces complements the capabilities of BlackBerry’s MDM platform with context-aware collaboration tools that facilitate the sharing of information within workgroups while protecting it with digital rights management (DRM) capabilities that manage its flow to and between outside parties.

“We are broadening our portfolio to become a strategic partner for our customers,” says Sinisha Patkovic, director of BlackBerry’s Security Group. “We’ve been pivoting from being a handset and MDM vendor into a broad portfolio company that is working with the company to help them with their long-term objectives.”

One of those common objectives is to improve employee collaboration – and BlackBerry’s multi-platform tool facilitates information sharing from one employee to another, allowing administrators to set controls on the types of actions – sharing, printing, copying, and so on – that can be performed on each file. This ensures that even sensitive data can be properly controlled despite the burgeoning use of mobile and cloud productivity tools – offering control over data in the same way that MDM offers controls over mobile devices.

BlackBerry’s approach has been recognised as “visionary” by Gartner, which concluded that the platform “excels in DRM document encryption and controls on shared files, secure content editing for mobile productivity, and extensive data protection.” Forrester Research gave it the highest scores possible against 17 evaluation criteria ranging from scalability and reporting to encryption, data sovereignty support, watermarking, MDM support, and mobile protection.

Such evaluations put BlackBerry Workspaces at the vanguard in the market for unified workspaces, an emerging classification of online collaboration tool that Gartner has argued “represent the future state of user-centric computing”. This ties in with the cybersecurity reviews currently going on at every level of government – where ongoing data breaches will likely hasten the adoption of more-secure mechanisms for protecting data at rest and in motion.

Although government is likely to be a key adopter of such technology – particularly in the context of the remediation efforts currently being undertaken – private-sector bodies face similar challenges but benefit from the ability to move more quickly to adopt new technologies.

As business leaders become increasingly aware of the need to address data security to meet governance and compliance requirements, it becomes easier for businesses to drive the organisational change necessary to adopt secure unified workspaces.

“It’s all about learning how you can share sensitive records without losing control,” says Patkovic. “In real life, usability trumps security every time: people tend to go for the path of least resistance, so security has to be seamless and super simple to use. If it’s not, you’re out of luck.”

Within Australia, the rush to secure enterprise data will also gain more urgency due to the demands of looming data-breach notification laws. These laws will increase the stakes for the many businesses that have traditionally been reluctant to share information after being compromised – and there are many such businesses, according to recent figures that suggest Australia already has the most information-security breaches in the Asia-Pacific region.

While federal governments work to protect sensitive data assets, private companies will also be in the crosshairs and many executives will find ample motivation to invest in security better security simply to stay out of the headlines. By making or expanding an MDM investment to accommodate changing threats, they will be able to more smoothly transition their workforce to the era of mobile and cloud without compromising their security in the process.