I know – you probably already want to chastise me for trying to have a provocative title to today’s missive, but I actually thought it was a nice play on words. Let me explain to you why. Eighteen to twenty-four months ago, the hot topic du jour was the debate around whether organizations should even allow personally owned smartphones into the workplace. The debate heated up when Apple came out with the iPad and organizations now had TWO device classes they had to deal with. Today, of course – with 20/20 hindsight – we (generally speaking) readily accept the notion of personally owned devices entering into the workplace…with caveats of course.
(One of) the major concern that IT organizations now talk to me about is “security”….they want to be able to “secure” the mobile endpoints that are now interacting with corporate data. In fine fashion, enterprise mobility management vendors have (understandably) jumped on to this wagon and constantly talk about “securing” mobile devices. At face value, I actually applaud these companies for looking to help IT organizations secure their mobile endpoints. But let’s actually look at the word secure. It’s time for a quick vocabulary lesson.
Dictionary.com says that the word “secure” is actually both an adjective AND a verb.
As an adjective, it is defined as:
- free from or not exposed to danger or harm; safe.
- dependable; firm; not liable to fail, yield, become displaced, etc., as a support or a fastening: The building was secure, even in an earthquake.
- affording safety, as a place: He needed a secure hideout.
However, as a verb:
- to get hold or possession of; procure; obtain: to secure materials; to secure a high government position.
- to free from danger or harm; make safe: Sandbags secured the town during the flood.
- to effect; make certain of; ensure: The novel secured his reputation.
….and hence the rub.
I will argue that in one context, IT departments are most focused on securing mobile devices in the workplace….and I use the word as a verb in its second definition. However, it is (understandably) very easy to use the word interchangeably as its adjective form. Mobile security however, I will argue is about security solutions. That would include anti-virus, anti-malware, mobile VPN, authentication systems, data encryption…perhaps even geo-fencing.
And as such, this is why I now argue that mobility management vendors that talk about their strong mobile device management capabilities – in the context of security – are succumbing to the temptations of language confusion. There is indeed a Trojan Horse in the camps….and its name is security (or should I say secure). It’s taking over from the inside what mobile device management is about. Now, in one respect, this is not a bad thing, because I encourage all organizations to deploy mobile device management solutions. However, much like there is confusion in the space regarding the differences between mobile device management and mobile application management, I fear that there will now also be increased confusion regarding the differences between mobile device management and mobile security.