With the rise of mobile working things are seemingly hotting up for Chief Information Officers (CIOs). Their job is simple. The have a clear remit to make sure that the information in their organisation or company is securely handled while also being free to access at the same time. The parameters around that freedom and the degree of safety involved are entirely down to them. If things go wrong the buck stops with them.


How do things go wrong? When an employee decides to badmouth the company president on his company Twitter account, things are going wrong. When an employee cannot access a certain database because she does not have access, and the company loses money and time because of it, things are going wrong. It’s a game of balancing elements, and if the CIO gets it wrong, money is at stake.


However, it just got a lot worse for the CIOs out there. With mobile working being something that employees genuinely want to take on wholesale, CIOs have something of a dilemma. Who do they give network access rights to and why? If someone wants to bring in their personal device or work on it outside the office, do they have an automatic right to then come back in and use the company network?


The Enabler


The CIO is often viewed as the ‘technology enabler’ for employees. The employee comes to the CIO asking for access to the network. They also ask for the right technology to do their jobs. So an employee may ask for a tablet and the use of the network for that tablet. On paper this does not sound bad, because it sounds like someone is just asking to have their productivity boosted as well as their efficiency. However, this can lead to a clear security risk. With employees using social media and other platforms in between or even as part of getting things done, this means that company networks and servers can be open to cyber attack.


In the old days (and we are talking about two years ago when we say ‘old days’) firewalls were totally responsible for keeping company servers safe. Data was protected therefore by firewalls in the most traditional sense. They were almost impenetrable, and they gave little freedom to anyone who wanted to work a little smarter or more effectively. If you wanted to take your smartphone out while on the train for example, and send in a file you had been working on, you had no chance. The firewall was just way too dense.


Unified Threats


How are CIOs dealing with the firewall issue? Simple. They are using unified threat firewalls now that allow them to adapt the level of access to meet the needs and devices of the different mobile workers. Let’s say Charley from accounts has an iPad that she brings in to work. The CIO organizes it so that she gets access to Twitter but not Facebook on the network. Charley also gets to access the company server when mobile, and download files when she needs to.


The CIO has a bigger challenge, this is true. However, they are meeting this challenge through innovation. The unified threat firewall allows them to adapt their security to meet an ever-changing tech landscape. It’s good news for the mobile worker, ad reassuring for the CIO.