Spring cleaning is for more than just your house. Even mobile devices can benefit from an annual cleanup, which amounts to an OS update so that users can get the latest in productivity and security enhancements.
David Lingenfelter, the information security officer at Fiberlink, an IBM company about mobile device maintenance in a corporate environment, offered tips for a spring cleaning for mobile devices in corporate, Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE), and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments.
Mobile devices are an extension of us according to Lingenfelter. To me, this position should be central to how consumer and business users maintain their mobile devices.
Make updates and upgrades to mobile devices
Lingenfelter is an advocate of making sure that mobile devices have the latest OS updates.
"Really it comes down to if you are behind the times on your operating system you are missing a lot of security opportunities and enhancements," Lingenfelter said. "iOS comes out with an update every few months and typically they are minor typically some smaller features."
According to Lingenfelter, "Without doing these upgrades and updates you really lose a lot of the functionality in general of the device as they continue to upgrade and add new features."
"But then from a security perspective you start to lose touch with how secure you are on the device," Lingenfelter said. "That plays even more significantly in the Android world where the Android market is quite fragmented as far as what version of the OS goes on what phone. So not only are we talking about the software being up to date is your phone still 'updatable'?"
He said if your Android phone was purchased more than two years ago, it may not even be able to run the latest Android version. Samsung and some other third party smartphones may not even support the latest Android version either.
"These are all things you need to think about and make sure you are taking care of at least periodically and spring is the right time to do that," Lingenfelter said.
Delete unwanted apps and data from devices
Downloading mobile apps is made all too easy these days. I always have to download and delete apps as part of one writing project or another or so it seems.
"Just making sure you only have things on the device you are using and that plays into overhead on the device," Lingenfelter said. "Each of these apps in particular on the Android side can be running in the background and taking up CPU, memory, and certainly storage space on both Android and iOS."
He raised some interesting questions we should all ask about the unwanted apps on our mobile devices:
- Are they constantly communicating to the outside world?
- Are they asking for updates?
- Are they running advertisements?
- Are they chewing through your data minutes?
- What documents have people taken onto their device with the app? What exposure do they open up for the company?
That's the other reason why you want to delete unwanted material. Just because you aren't using it anymore. You could be taxing device resources as well as space when you leave unwanted apps on your device.
User IDs and passwords could still be floating around on the device with unused corporate apps according to Lingenfelter. Corporate and BYOD mobile devices need to run with just the corporate mobile apps the user requires.
Organize your mobile devices for business and pleasure
"From a professional perspective, I don't know too many people who are using corporate phones just for corporate purposes. The whole point of these phones is so you can use them for everything in your life," he said.
Lingenfelter advised using secure containers for isolating corporate data from the users personal apps and information
"If the person has a personal Dropbox account, for example, you don't want them taking your corporate information and moving it over to Dropbox. You don't want them taking their corporate emails and sending then out through Gmail or whatever personal email they have," he said.
Latest mobile security threats
When asked about the latest mobile security threats, Lingenfelter said, "From a threat perspective, the numbers of apps compromised on the Android side continues to grow."
He advised that businesses look to establish enterprise app stores of safe mobile apps for their users.
Lingenfelter was also quick to point out that both iOS and Android suffered from encryption issues last year that had ramifications for corporate and personal device users.
"Those are threats that aren't at the app layer, but at the entire device layer," Lingenfelter said. "So making sure you are aware of these latest threats helps you reinforce the need to keep the phones up to date and clean and get rid of the old apps you don't use anymore."
Use top apps to increase productivity
Fiberlink monitors top mobile apps through their app white list.
"In 2013, Adobe Reader was very popular to have on your devices," Lingenfelter said. "Obviously, a very corporate application but has a lot of uses on the personal side."
Google's mobile productivity apps also ranked high on Fiberlink's white list along with Box and Dropbox.
"Citrix Receiver is another one that people are using to further complement the separation of corporate and personal data," Lingenfelter said. "So you've got your email, contacts, and calendar within our secure container and maybe you are in the process of building some apps or web apps that you don't necessarily want the data down on the device. Some people then use our SPS [Secure Productivity Suite] product and Citrix Receiver as well."
I'm going to put in my own plug in for the recently released Microsoft Office for iPad because it's going to have a positiveinfluence on enterprise mobility in businesses that are standardized on Office 365.
Mobile device maintenance needs to grow and mature in many organizations. Lingenfelter brings up some simple approaches that need to become part of how corporations and individual users can put in place that don't require extensive technical expertise by keeping current with OS updates and keeping unnecessary apps off your devices.
Corporations can lead the change in how their users think of mobile device maintenance by introducing best practices through user outreach and education. Keeping mobile OSes and apps up to date is easy enough for even non-technical consumer users. It just has to be made a habit, much in the way spring cleaning is a habit in many homes.
I think it's time for me to go clean up some of my mobile devices.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.