Does Windows 8 Surface Pro's security credentials signal the decline of MDM?

Opinion by Joseph Souren

According to Forrester's recently launched 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends report, the demand for Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet is rife.

According to Forrester's recently launched 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends report, the demand for Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet is rife.

Based on interviews with more than 9,700 workers around the world, nearly a third (32 per cent) suggested that their preferred next tablet would be a Windows device, compared with just 26 per cent who would opt for an iPad.

There's clearly a desire among the workforce to get their hands on the Surface Pro. The much-anticipated launch was met with widespread shortages. If these shortages are an accurate reflection of the demand Microsoft was hoping for, it's just a matter of time before the first Surface Pros (and their kin) start appearing in an organisation near you.

Most significantly, the security capabilities in Windows 8 devices could significantly simplify matters for IT organisations that are considering ‘bring your own device' (BYOD) programmes.

The primary reason behind this stems from its inherent security capabilities. In essence, Windows 8 devices can act as a security token. Using the appropriate management techniques for Trusted Computing Group standards – methods are available to augment the existing management infrastructure enterprises have in place to deliver modern mobility that's simple to use, always connected, secure and password-free.

The device acts as the token, leveraging the Trusted Platform Module to securely store and manage user credentials. The user logs into the device by entering a PIN or swiping a fingerprint sensor; the device then logs the user into all business services. There's no need for the user to remember separate passwords to access WiFi, virtual private networks (VPN) or internal web resources or remote services.

Methods can also be used to enable robust encryption for local data at rest and content shared in the cloud, ensuring that the enterprise's IP is kept secure, while users retain access to the social tools they wish to use. Tablets running Windows 8 Pro also support the critical programs that many others cannot, including Windows Office and legacy applications.

Windows 8 tablets can be managed by Microsoft Active Directory – the same infrastructure used for managing Windows 7 and Windows 8 desktop and laptops – so there's no need for mobile device management, eliminating overhead costs and additional training.

With no need to enter passwords, there is a lower risk of socially engineered attacks. No passwords also mean lower help desk volume, and because solutions can activate the embedded hardware security within the tablet itself, there is no requirement for smartcards or tokens for multi-factor authentication.

The security in Windows 8 tablets demonstrates the power of Trusted Computing and will lay the foundation for all enterprise PCs and devices to be mobile in the future.

CIOs everywhere are trying to accommodate the growing number of users that demand the convenience of a tablet while balancing the need from IT for greater security and control. The launch of Windows 8 tablets will redefine what mobile means to the enterprise. Now there's a group of devices that resemble an iPad but operate like a PC.

Joseph Souren is vice president and general manager EMEA of Wave Systems


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