Increasingly, corporate board members are moving to tablets, sometimes even outside the purview of the corporate IT departments and their policies. This has the potential to put corporate networks and highly sensitive corporate documents -- such as Board Books and corporate financials -- at risk, especially in light of some of today's strict compliance programs.
Securing corporate board member tablets, their mobile access to your corporate network, and your sensitive corporate documents have all the technical aspects you probably already practice with your employees and contractors, but with the added potential of corporate political bumps that can only come from high powered, busy executives with varying technical skill levels and interests.
Here are five ways to address tablet security for your corporate board members:
1. Make tablet security part of board member contracts and agreements
If corporate board members are clamoring for the iPad and other tablets, it's time for your IT department and executive suite to work together to extend existing corporate mobile device security policies to the corporate boardroom, if it already hasn't been done. This could take a number of paths, including adding mobile device security clauses to corporate board member contracts and agreements, so they're contractually bound to follow the same mobile security and BYOD rules as corporate employees and contractors.
Another consideration is personalized or board member-specific tablet security training, depending on board member and executive wishes to aid in a smooth transition.
2. Implement an electronic board portal
The growing acceptance of the iPad inside the enterprise has led to electronic board portals from vendors like Director Access and BoardVantage. An electronic board portal, combined in conjunction with an iPad, is a user-friendly way to establish a secure connection between a board member's tablet and the board portal for collaboration and logistical information, such as voting and meeting arrangements.
3. Build your own board portal with SharePoint and a secure iPad clientIn cases where an electronic board portal might be beyond your budget, look to your existing SharePoint implementation and a secure iPad app to provide an entry-level yet secure document management and collaboration for corporate board members. For example, Coaxion for iPad (see Figure A) provides SSL-encrypted SharePoint access and document collaboration, document broadcasting for updates, and users can even delete local copies of documents off board member iPads at the end of a collaboration session. It's among the first generation of iPad apps for accessing SharePoint, which provides secure data transmission, vs. an app that transmits data over an open network. Figure A
Coaxion for iPad is free from the App Store and provide a new level of iPad to SharePoint secure collaboration.
4. Use a rights management server to secure documents, regardless of the tabletIn the end, tablets can be accidentally lost or stolen, so it's important to lock down documents with a rights management server and be platform agnostic about corporate board member tablet security altogether.
Adobe LiveCycle Server is one such rights management server. It assigns an encryption key to an Adobe Acrobat PDF, which encrypts the document protecting it from unauthorized users. A corporate board member could log into the corporate network from their tablet using Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). With the mobile version of Adobe Reader, the server authenticates the board member through LDAP, and they can read documents restricted to just the corporate board members.
Another option with Adobe LiveCycle Server and other rights management servers is to "expire" documents. This is when you can grant document access to a certain group of users and then revoke user access after a certain amount time. For example, you may have a three-day corporate board meeting, where reviewing key corporate financial forecasts is on the agenda. Policies can be set over the documents to make them accessible to board members only for the three days of that meeting. After the closing day, the documents would expire and be inaccessible to the board members.
5. Implement a secure content management server that can publish to tablets
With the kind of corporate information that boards regularly access and review, your organization may want to consider implementing a secure content management system (CMS) that can publish directly to tablets. Some of these CMS tools even enable you to track your corporate board books, financials, and other proprietary information from the server out to the tablet. Signal from Rimage is one such CMS.Signal includes many of the features of other CMS services on the market, along with a similar but push-based publishing process, but it takes its content management a step further through its Signal Content iPad and Android apps (see Figure B). Here are some of Signal's mobile-specific features:
- View access to all content the user has permissions to access
- Document encryption on the server through transport to the mobile device
- Support for online/offline content encryption
- Document viewing that includes single and double page viewing
- Support for viewing video directly through the tablet app
- Document tracking that extends to iPads and Android tablets with full analytics
- Flexible access policies set through a cloud-based management platform
The Signal Content iPad app is quite functional and secure for board members reviewing sensitive documents.
Rights Management solutions are great choices in there own right, but Rimage Signal uses a single Digital Rights Management (DRM), providing end-to-end security and making it attractive for organizations and industries that require the additional security.
As tablet demand grows inside corporations, security needs to evolve to meet the challenge. Fortunately, there's a wide range of solutions to secure your corporate board member tablets, and especially your sensitive internal corporate documents. How does your organization secure corporate tablets? Please share your experience in the discussion thread below.
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.