With the increasing popularity of laptop and notebook computers, as well as portable devices such as mobile phones and Universal Serial Bus (USB) memory sticks, mobile computing security has become a growing concern. While most desktop computer systems operate behind a firewall and are protected by network security measures, portable devices operated beyond that protection are at risk for data leaks and malware infection. Centralizing data storage and using data encryption with secure data devices and USB ports will minimize mobile computing security risks.
There are several simple ways to protect the information stored on your computer or device. Installing a physical lock on laptop and notebook computers and instructing employees to use them whenever the device is at risk is considered a best practice in mobile computing security. Notebook computers should also be secured by setting a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or hard drive password. If the device is used remotely from the network, install stand-alone anti-virus and malware software. Consider purchasing software that tracks mobile devices and reports their location when connected to the Internet, as some security software allows the drive on a stolen device to be erased remotely.
USB flash drives pose a serious risk to mobile computing security and all data placed on them should be encrypted. Anti-malware software will prevent placing infected files on the drive that may then infect your entire network. Use your computer operating system's permission management software to control who can read and write to specific files and folders. There are also port management tools that limit access to USB, FireWire, printer, and serial ports, as well as specific devices, such as CD-ROM drives.
Portable devices should be equipped with a personal firewall. Be aware, however, that they need to be carefully chosen and configured so as to not interfere with or prevent legitimate network connectivity. Portable firewalls are especially critical for personnel who connect to the network via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Advanced firewall software provides other functions such as intrusion prevention, anti-phishing, spam blocking, and detection of software that scans devices seeking security vulnerabilities. Encryption using a protocol, such as Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2), is also essential for protecting wireless transmission of data.
On the network level, software should be installed that protects it from malware infections picked up by mobile devices. Beyond hardware and software mobile computing security measures, it is recommended that organizations publish clear guidelines for employees. These should address what devices may be used beyond the network, the security measures personnel must follow, and also provide general advice on preventing security breaches.