The battle of blacklisted apps: can IT managers balance security with productivity?

Opinion by David Lingenfelter

Mobility, particularly as bring your own device (BYOD) continues to gather momentum, can keep IT managers up at night.

Mobility, particularly as bring your own device (BYOD) continues to gather momentum, can keep IT managers up at night.


One of the main concerns is that today's vast array of mobile devices are bustling with new apps. Whether they be recreational such as Angry Birds, productive such as a CRM app, or mixed use such as Dropbox, IT managers are under increasing pressure to ensure that all apps, regardless of the device type they sit on, cater to enterprise security, while also making certain that performance is not compromised.


We recently carried out research into the leading apps that IT managers have blacklisted on iOS and Android devices across 4,500 global organisations from Fiberlink's customer database.




What was clear from the findings was that the pursuit of protecting corporate data and ensuring employee productivity is driving the decisions behind which apps get blacklisted. While the apps included in both lists will not come as an earth shattering surprise to IT managers, it is interesting two see the two very distinct flavours of recreational and corporate apps blacklisted.


The very nature of the more productive file sharing apps such as Dropbox, used by employees to collaborate and access important documents, puts corporate information at risk if it falls into the wrong hands. Alternatively, the more recreational apps such as Google play, often used by employees to watch movies, limits bandwidth and slows the performance of business critical apps as a result.


As a result, IT managers are truly wrestling with the challenge of how to unlock maximum productivity for employees through these apps, while ensuring that first and foremost security is not impaired. This is why more and more IT managers are exploring more effective ways in which to manage apps, as unmonitored apps can be more disruptive than productive.


As the findings highlight, any employee can seek out their own tools for collaboration and could very well use popular apps that are designed for the mass market. The trouble is that these apps are often times not designed for enterprise use and more critically, they don't have enterprise level security.


Even when employees have the intention of using apps such as Facebook for business purposes, the security credentials are often an afterthought. IT managers cannot afford to assume that any employee will think about the level of security required.


Moving forward, it is highly unlikely that the number of apps, whether recreational or business, entering the enterprise will decrease anytime soon. If anything, BYOD rollouts will accelerate the adoption of even more apps.


In order to be best prepared, many IT managers are exploring the use of enterprise application management in order to deliver an easy-to-use enterprise app catalogue, with full security and operational lifecycle management across mobile device platforms.


Organisations taking this proactive approach will continue to have access to the best technology options to win the long-term battle with reducing data and apps risks, without restricting employee productivity.



David Lingenfelter, information security officer of Fiberlink


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