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In order to protect mobile devices and applications, US Federal agencies need security capabilities that proactively protect devices against all types of cyber attacks, experts say. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the government’s increasing reliance on mobile technology has made it an attractive and lucrative target for cyberattacks. “The enhanced capabilities mobile technologies provide, the ubiquity and diversity of mobile applications and devices, and the typical use of the devices outside agencies’ traditional network boundaries requires a security approach that differs substantially from the protections developed for desktop workstations,” according to a DHS quote in meritalk.com.
For enhanced protection agencies can tap into an emerging set of tools, such as mobile threat detection (MTD). MTD extends enterprise mobility management (EMM) and mobile device management (MDM) solutions with additional security capabilities. The research firm IDC calls this market segment mobile threat management (MTM) while other research companies use the
term mobile threat prevention (MTP). These solutions consist of a mix of capabilities, including vulnerability management, behavioral profiling, and transport security technologies to defend mobile devices and applications from advanced threats.
Traditional EMM/MDM security tools access signature databases that can flag certain signs of known attacks. However, high-value data is prone to zero-day attacks unlisted in any database. Experts recommend layering MTD on top of EMM and MDM solutions to yield greater protection. Other cybersecurity experts note that machine learning software on the device can proactively protect devices wherever the user travels.
Mobile devices pose significant information security risks to government agencies, according to Gary Bradt, vice president of public sector with Zimperium which provides cyber threat protection for mobile devices
including smartphones, tablets, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Cyber criminals can compromise devices and steal government information through a variety of attack methods, such as compromising WiFi connections, the use of malicious access points, attacks on mobile operating systems, side-loading of applications, and introduction of risky/non-compliant
apps. The mobile devices of government employees are the weak links in the mobile security armor, exposed to hackers who can target users’ smartphones or devices while they are connected to Wi-Fi networks. Protection against persistent threats and zero-day attacks
requires on-device machine learning software that looks for anomalies in device behavior. “If there is bad behavior on the device, it should be able to notify users that they’re under attack,” Bradt said. The MTD solution should be able to monitor the entire mobile device for malicious behavior regardless of the attack entry point. A device-wide resident approach does not rely on external IDs or malware signatures and does more than app scanning.
Meanwhile DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate is developing innovative security technologies to accelerate the adoption of secure mobile technologies by DHS, the entire Federal government, and the global community.
Current areas of development underway spanning mobile device security and mobile application security are: mobile software roots of trust, firmware security, virtual mobile infrastructure, continuous validation and threat protection for mobile apps, and tools to integrate security throughout the mobile app development life cycle.
DHS also has identified a need for a new research and development project focused on security and resilience of mobile network infrastructure, according to the Mobile Security Program Guide. The hope is that by intermeshing these newly developing technologies, Federal agencies can begin to rely more on mobility computing while mitigating some of security
risks that poses today.