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From Mainframe to Mobile: The Whirlwind Cometh — Securing It All Won’t Be Easy

It’s common knowledge that the number of devices connecting to corporate networks is exploding. I just didn’t quite know how explosive it was until I came across a survey report from Dimensional Research®, a tech research firm in Silicon Valley. The growth is explosive squared. You can’t look at this without seeing huge implications for corporations hoping to get a grip on their data security.

Let’s start with the traditional networked devices — ubiquitous in virtually any large organization: Servers, storage devices, modems, routers, switches, desktops, laptops, printers, scanners, that sort of thing. Cell phones, or what the survey report calls IP phones, can be said to be only slightly less traditional. They are very nearly as prevalent on corporate networks now as printers are. Of the 723 individuals around the world who responded to the survey, 84% said IP phones were tied into their corporate networks.

“The traditional model of an employee-in-office with a network-connected computer is disappearing,” said Ed Hallock, Syncsort’s director of Ironstream product management. (Ironstream enables Splunk users to import z/OS log data in real time for analysis with other data streams.)

Hallock continued: “The office is now the airport lounge, the hotel room, the Starbucks hot spot, or wherever the 21st century employee can get connected.  And they are not just connecting laptops, but also tablets and other mobile devices, and they’re being connected through unsecured public networks. This is creating real security challenges for every CSO in every organization.”

Data security
The exploding number of devices connecting to corporate networks is having huge implications on data security.

That’s just mobile devices. Now we get to the fun stuff. Twenty-one percent of the respondents (who are mostly IT execs, managers, and front-line IT professionals) said their networks had smart thermometers on them!  Other “endpoints”, as the report described them, included digital signage, badge readers, finger-print scanners, security swipe systems, HVAC systems, cameras, and industry-specific endpoints — sensors and the like — such as those used in manufacturing.

Here’s the worrying part. Most respondents had “a low level of confidence in their knowledge of what is connecting to corporate networks.” Many (61%) confessed they were sure that there were devices or applications on their networks that they didn’t know about. And they are becoming less and less confident in what they know about network-attached devices.

Of course, there are a wide variety of network-management tools out there, but only half of the respondents (52%) said their tools can support all the platforms, operating systems, and device types that they must manage.  Almost (61%) admitted they “lack adequate resources to fully leverage their systems management tools.”

Clearly, then, corporate cyber-security departments need more modern network-management tools — ones that are comprehensive in devices they monitor, and that are easier to use. At Syncsort, we believe our Zen product line fills that bill.

The full report — “Managing Expanding Endpoint Environments: A Survey of IT Professionals” — was sponsored by Dell Inc. and is available here.