Fixmo: A Possible Solution to BYOD Risk

By | Mar 7, 2012

It's no secret that "bring your own device" (BYOD) is not favored among many IT professionals. Unfortunately though, as smartphones and tablets become more integral to the work day, it looks like asking employees to leave their personal devices at home is quickly becoming a thing of the past. This leaves IT wondering how they can keep their computer systems safe from malware or protect sensitive company information from a compromised mobile device.

InfoWorld.com reports that Fixmo, a company that initially developed tools for the NSA, has developed a product that protects corporate applications on a compromised smartphone or tablet. This mobile risk management product, geared toward both iOS and Android devices, works in two parts. The Fixmo Sentinel, which has both back-end and on-device software, scans the phone to make sure nothing is compromised, and if it has been, it alerts the administrator of any changes.

The second component, the Fixmo SafeZone, currently only available as a "tech preview," is a secure container that doesn't allow any data that operates within the designated zone to be copied for outside use. If Sentinel senses that the device is compromised, it alerts SafeZone, which then locks down any corporate data within the designated area. The employee can still use the smartphone, only he can't access the information within the zone. In a nutshell, this program allows IT to safeguard corporate data on an employee's personal devices from afar.

Fixmo isn't the first product geared specifically toward mobile risk management, and it definitely won't be the last. But is a product like this the best solution to the BYOD risk? Companies like VMware and RedBend are in the midst of developing another solution for personal devices--mobile virtualization technology. This technology allows separate operating systems to run on a single device. Each operating system is its own little island, with its own apps and content. The beauty of this technology is that the enterprise operating system is limited to content that the IT administrator has approved.

Unfortunately, mobile virtualization technology must be built into the phone. Currently, there are no phones with this technology on the market. That doesn't mean that availability is that far off. According to PCWorld.com, Telefonica and Verizon plan on releasing phones with the VMware technology in the coming months.

While it appears that mobile virtualization technology is more secure than a product like Fixmo, making it very appealing to government and financial operations, it has one huge downside: In order for it to be implemented, employees must purchase new phones. This is an expense that many companies and their employees can't afford in a grim market. Until mobile virtualization technology becomes a standard issue in every phone, smaller companies looking to lower the risk of BYOD may want to look to a product like Fixmo.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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