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Four steps to securing mobile content delivery


Students and staff expect 24-7 access to content and information from any device; here’s how to provide safe, secure access via mobile devices—whether they’re school-issued or part of a BYOD program

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Understanding the differences between managing school-owned or “bring you own” devices is key.

Students, teachers, and administrators expect access to educational content and information from any device, at all hours of the day—and these demands place a huge burden on school IT staff. How can school leaders provide secure mobile access to content and information?

Answering this question was the focus of a recent eSchool News webinar sponsored by Symantec Corp.

Called “Enabling the Classrooms of Tomorrow,” the webinar featured advice on providing 24-7 access to content and information in a safe, secure way from Ben Orencia, education practice manager from Symantec; Matthew Peeples, president of Advanced MarketPlace Inc.; and Advanced MarketPlace’s Mark Robinson.

During the webinar, four key steps to securing mobile content emerged:

1. Mobile security starts with educating end users.

“From a PC perspective, we’re pretty savvy and cautious” about online security, Orencia noted—but when it comes to mobile security, most people are less cautious.

He showed some statistics to support this notion: While 90 percent of computer users delete suspicious eMails from people they don’t know, only 56 percent of mobile device users do this. Seventy-two percent of computer users have at least a basic antivirus solution installed, but only 33 percent of mobile device users do.

(Next page: Three more steps to securing mobile access to content and other resources)

2. Then, you need visibility into your school or district network.

“It sounds simple, but we can’t manage devices we don’t know about,” Robinson said. Schools need some kind of network or asset management system that can register mobile devices in a common database, with information about their location, user, and more.

3. Next, understand the differences between managing school-owned vs. “bring your own” devices.

For mobile devices that are owned and issued by a school or district, you’ll want to have “at least device control and management” in place, Robinson said.

For instance, you’ll want a system that can tell you who is using the device, what department it belongs to, where it is on the network, and so on. You’ll also want to be able to geo-locate it and wipe it clean of data if it goes missing.

For “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs, there are two possible approaches, Robinson said: You can either seek to control the device itself, or control only the relevant apps and data that are delivered to it.

“Users are going to balk” at this first approach, he said—and having that level of control over a user’s personal device can lead to privacy issues as well. The smarter approach to a BYOD program would be to control access not to the device itself, but to the data it accesses.

4. Finally, choose a mobile security system that offers the flexibility you need.

Symantec offers an application streaming product, called App Center, that “spans that bridge between institution-owned devices and BYOD devices,” Robinson said—allowing schools to control access to data rather than specific devices.

With application streaming, you can control access to information by user, so “when a student finishes a course and no longer needs that information, we can pull that data right off of the device,” he said.

You can also provision applicatio content to specific users, regardless of what device they’re using—and “as long as the device they’re logged into has a streaming client, they will get that application.”

(Editor’s note: For more advice on enabling secure, 24-7 mobile access to content and information—including key trends and developments in the online threat landscape—you can listen to the full archived webinar here.)

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