Addressing Mobile Security with What Else? An App!
While most of us in the learning community are more concerned with engaging the learner and providing effective learning content to our mobile learners, there are a lot of people who think of one thing when you mention mobile learning and that is security. The lack of real security options on mobile devices is one reason so many decision makers look at mobile learning as a “cute” novelty and not a real solution.
The fact that an organization’s data could end up on a mobile device scares many leaders. We’ve all seen the headlines about data taken from stolen or lost mobile devices and the recent phone hacking scandal at News Corp’s News of the World . Those events lead many to believe that they can’t provide content to a mobile device because the risk is too great to justify the reward of situated, contextually driven learning.
When I give a presentation on mobile learning, there’s always someone who questions the security. I normally provide a very simple answer and it goes something like this: “There are a lot of really smart people at well-funded organizations working really hard on that one”. So if you get this gist of it, my answer basically comes down to, “they’re working on it”. And we all know that when someone says they’re working on it, they really mean that it’s not done and who knows how long it will take to finish.
All the big companies, McAfee, Symantec, etc. are working to provide security solutions for mobile devices so data is safe and secure. Blackberry has traditionally held the crown of “most secure phone”, and security remains one of their strengths. However, with more individuals adopting devices running iOS and Android, those operating systems have become hot spots in the mobile security world.
So far, several high-profile government agencies here in the US and around the world have started to embrace mobile technology. The US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and the Veterans Administration are just a couple of organizations currently building mobile learning applications and all sorts of performance support applications to deliver to their learners (following some serious pilot programs like the Army’s CSDA - check out the videos in the multimedia section to learn more).
The leadership in those organizations must have confidence that the security issue will be worked out, especially if the organization’s data is going to end up on mobile devices. One reason they have confidence is that new apps and systems are coming around to address security. One new security app is Mobileworks DE, built by a company called SteelCloud located in Ashburn Virginia. This article at Information Week explains some of the details. The application will provide military grade security features so decision makers can sleep a little easier at night.
I look at the security issue as one of the last remaining obstacles for mobile learning. As security restrictions become as common place on our mobile devices as they are on our desktops, we will sigh and hopefully be somewhat satisfied that we at least have the ability to target the devices in our enterprise learning architectures to provide content. But it may be a slightly different world. Companies like RIM, maker of the Blackberry, and others are focusing on systems where your personal life is separated from your corporate life and free from the security restrictions your employer provides. But there will always be some thought of big brother watching me if I choose to allow my company to control anything on my mobile device. As with anything, we make trade-offs and compromises to have our cake and eat it too. Let’s hope in this world, security doesn’t make it feel like someone else owns our device (unless they do of course!).
The bottom line for me comes down to the fact that companies and organizations are aggressively dealing with mobile device security. Leadership at these organizations are embracing mobile technology and mobile learning. We can finally start to feel like it’s really here and no longer feel like mobile learning is “coming soon.”