August 8, 2011

The Physics of Wireless Security and Honor Codes

3 minute read


Robust security practices nearly always require a physical mechanism which monitors the zone or system being protected and physically verifies the presence or absence of a threat.

Surprisingly, today’s security policies governing the usage of Personal Electronic Devices (PED) and mobile devices within our most secure government and financial facilities do not require a physical monitoring mechanism. They recommend it as an option but it is rarely mandatory.

The established PED security policies do an effective job of outlining important administrative and educational security requirements but they stop short of requiring any physical verification of compliance. The policies establish what amounts to an honor code for their personnel to refrain from carrying or using PED (e.g. phones, blackberries, iPhones, Androids, etc) or certain features of the devices inappropriately within certain zones (e.g. camera, voice recording, video, etc).

The problem with relying too heavily on the honor code is that it is ineffective in cases where PED are compromised by malware or where there is an insider threat. Unfortunately the rapid proliferation of botnets and malware throughout smartphones and tablets is making it increasingly likely that a substantial fraction of mobile devices are indeed compromised.

Administration of policies, education of personnel, and a strong honor code are certainly core components of a strong cyber security posture but they cannot stand alone. PED security requirements need to include 2 other critical practices which result in physical verification of policy compliance …. Monitor and Manage.

First, security personnel need to continuously monitor their secure facilities for unauthorized wireless devices to physically verify the presence or absence of a PED threat. For improved situational awareness, wireless monitoring capability can be integrated with other security monitoring systems, such as SIEMs, ID Management Systems, and Surveillance Video Systems to yield a more complete view of an enterprise’s cyber security posture.

Second, a mechanism to dynamically manage authorized mobile devices within a secure enterprise is necessary. Until recently this was not possible but recent advances allow enterprise administrators to automatically modify the configuration of managed mobile devices as they change locations or situations. This results in automatic mobility policy compliance across zones and contexts. An example is the automatic heightening of a device’s security posture or restricting certain functionalities of a mobile device when it enters a secure zone.

Inpixon ZoneDefense delivers this previously unavailable Monitor and Manage capability. ZoneDefense automatically alerts security personnel of the presence and location of unauthorized mobile devices and automatically enforces the correct policies on managed mobile devices within an enterprise.

Mobile devices today are undoubtedly amazing and allow previously unimagined capabilities. However, with this increased functionality comes increase threat and responsibility. Physical verification of compliance and dynamic management of mobile devices in your enterprise are key parts of a solid cyber posture.

Topic(s): Security

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