How to Prevent Employee Data Theft Using MDM

Waseem Jalal

Introduction

Data is one of the most important assets today. Organizations of all sizes across industries value data the same way they treat revenue, profitability, or customer satisfaction. That is because it defines a company’s intellectual property, its ability to uncover insights that can lead to a competitive advantage. Naturally, malicious actors present outside the organization want access to sensitive data. Sometimes a negligent employee in the organization can be a root cause of data theft. 

According to the 2022 Cost Of Insider Threats Global Report, 56% of attacks were caused by employee negligence. One of the reasons for the breach is the poor security of devices used for work purposes. This article shares how organizations can improve data security using mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

Protect Data with MDM

MDM solutions can help businesses protect sensitive data by controlling access to the device, the data stored on the device, and the applications employees can install. It can also allow businesses to remotely wipe a device if it’s lost or stolen, thereby preventing unauthorized access to the data stored on the device.

Data Encryption

Data encryption is one of the best security measures to protect data at rest. Encryption protects data from being stolen, changed, or compromised by scrambling it into an indecipherable code that can be unlocked with a unique digital key.

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Device management tools offer encryption on popular mobile operating systems (Android, iOS) and computer operating systems (Windows, MacOS), making it difficult and time-consuming for individuals to decipher data.

Password Enforcement

One of the most fundamental ways to ensure online accounts and their data is to create strong passwords. MDM tools can configure password settings as per an organization’s password policy and push them directly to devices. A typical password policy can include requirements such as:

  • Minimum password length 
  • Number of complex characters
  • Maximum password age
  • Restrict reuse of old passwords
  • Maximum number of failed attempts before disabling the user account

Identity and Access Management

Secure mobile device management requires strong Identity and Access Management (IAM). Organizations can regulate users’ access using single sign-on (SSO), multi-factor authentication, and role-based access. MDM can utilize IAM to maintain corporate security standards through authentication policies such as Two Factor Authentication (2FA). 

2FA requires two methods to verify user identity. Any user who signs into the company account must provide additional information besides the password. Creating a two-step verification process reduces the chances of unauthorized access.

Containerization

Containerization is helpful for organizations that promote a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy at work. It is a technique to divide personal and corporate data and apps into separate logical containers. The major benefit of containerization is employee privacy. Organizations can only monitor and control the data and apps in the “work” container, leaving personal data—files, photos, apps—untouched.

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A work profile can easily be created by enrolling devices using various methods—Zero-touch for Android, DEP for iOS, and AutoPilot for Windows—offered by device management solutions. Certain tools encrypt data in the work container by default, securing data. The flow of data in and out of the work container is restricted. Data sharing between authorized work apps can occur while data movement between work containers is prohibited.

Remote Data Wipe

The cost of a lost or stolen smartphone or laptop is far more than the cost of the mobile device itself, thanks to the corporate data it contains. A misplaced mobile device means potential loss of intellectual property and high chances of a data breach. To put it into perspective, the average cost of a data breach was $4.35 million in 2022.

Remote Wipe on device  is a security feature in MDM that allows organizations to protect data from compromise when a device is lost or stolen. IT admins can use this feature to completely wipe data from company-owned devices (including personally enabled ones). However, IT admins can remove the work profile in the case of BYOD policies. All apps and associated work data in the work profile are wiped. Personal apps and data remain untouched.

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Application Management

Shadow IT is a common phenomenon among companies regardless of size and industry. Shadow IT is any IT resource, usually software applications, used by employees with the IT department’s approval. Meeting on Skype when the company uses Teams or sharing work files on personal Google Drive are examples of Shadow IT. 

While employees install unapproved apps for their perceived benefits, it poses significant data security risks to the organization. The risks range from IT control and visibility loss, data insecurity, and compliance issues to business inefficiencies. MDM with mobile application management (MAM) capabilities mitigates the risks associated with Shadow IT.

The blocklisting feature of MAM allows access to a list of pre-approved apps and prevents access to the rest of the applications on mobile devices. While bringing a halt to using applications is not feasible, MAM is a reliable option to minimize the use of unapproved applications for work. 

Wrapping Up

MDM solutions can also help businesses monitor the activity on mobile devices. This can include tracking the location of the device and monitoring the websites that employees visit. This can help businesses identify any unusual activity indicating data theft or security breaches.

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