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Who Controls Your Favorite Personal Computing Device?

Posted April 1, 2011    Peter McCalister

As a longtime Blackberry user I have been looking forward to the release of the Blackberry Playbook. With many of my colleagues using tablets, particularly iPads, I have been getting a little jealous of what they could do. So in addition to the excitement about RIM setting a release date I also noted the excitement about the announcement that the Playbook will support Android Apps.

That announcement also got me wondering if I can continue to be confident in the levels of security I have come to expect with my Blackberry. As a security conscious IT user, I always felt good about the enterprise quality security Blackberry provided. Even though I own my Blackberry Bold I figured I didn’t need to worry too much about anti-virus or add-on security software.  But the highly publicized problems with DroidDream malware highlighted the vulnerability of the Android platform without a least privilege solution.

It’s not that Android is particularly insecure. We have seen these kind of problems on desktops and servers. Control of access to the administrative account is a critical part of security on every platform. In fact Android has a well developed security model that includes application isolation and a fine-grained permission mechanism that enforces restrictions on the specific operations that a particular process can perform. These are advanced features that are considered best practices for desktop security.

The bigger problem these events point out is who has the responsibility for keeping personal computing devices secure. The increasingly popular bring your own comparer to work model seems like a good deal for everyone. You get to carry one device that fits you best and IT saves a lot of work buying and provisioning hardware. But what happens when you merge personal and business data and sometimes apps on employee owned devices? Who’s responsible for security and controls what applications run on the device? These aren’t easy questions, but ones that needs to be answered by every company that takes endpoint security seriously.

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