Since its debut in April 2010, the iPad has quickly become the most popular tablet, outselling all competitors in the market combined. With the faster and thinner iPad2 now flying off the shelves, the number of iPad owners continues to soar. New iPad owners are increasingly business users, particularly in industries such as retail, banking, and healthcare. Estimates indicate that 25 percent of tablet sales in 2011 will be made by enterprises, leading some to call 2011 the “year of the enterprise tablet.” All estimations aside, the iPad’s ability to engage consumers is irrefutable, and businesses are noticing.
With the introduction of any new technology, however, comes risk. The following are answers to a few frequently asked questions to help you determine if the iPad makes sense for your organization.
Once You Have an iPad, What Do You Do With It?
The App Store offers a variety of applications (apps) for business users. You can create, view, and edit common office documents such as spreadsheets, presentations, and Word documents as well as annotate PDFs and access files on your corporate network. The iPad also provides great functionality in keeping you connected while out of the office by allowing users to attend online meetings and access e-mails, contacts, calendars, and attachments.
Some of the top rated iPad apps for business users include:
- Apple’s iWork suite, used for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.
- Square, which allows retailers to check their customers out in the shopping aisle.
- MobileIron Sentry, which allows users to monitor, identify, and enforce mobile devices and corporate polices.
- Evernote, an application used for note taking and a photo, audio, video, and text-syncing tool.
- WebEx, which affords staff participation in online meetings.
- Dropbox, which automatically syncs files across multiple computers.
How Secure Is the iPad?
The iPad operating system allows system administrators to employ the same type of authentication parameters typical in most information security policies. The following authentication settings are configurable on the iPad:
- Require passcode on device
- Require alphanumeric value
- Minimum passcode length/number of complex characters
- Maximum passcode age
- Maximum number of failed attempts
- Inactivity lockout
Can I Limit the Ability to Download Apps?
End users can be restricted from downloading apps with the use of MDM (Mobile Device Management) software. Most MDM software suites include the ability to completely restrict a user’s ability to download apps, and some have options to make only approved apps available for download with the use of a configurable app market.
The apps located in the Apple App Store are required to go through a screening process before they enter the market; however, apps with malicious code have bypassed the screening process in the past and will most likely continue to do so despite Apple’s best efforts to detect them. Allowing employees to install any apps they want could result in the propagation of malicious code across your entire network.
Can iPads Be “Jailbroken” Like iPhones?
You may have heard the term “jailbreaking” at some point. Jailbreaking allows users to gain full access and unlock all built-in features of an iPhone or iPad’s operating system. Jailbreaking apps such as Cydia or JailbreakMe have made it easier for even the least technical users to crack open the iPad.
Corporations should understand the potential security threats of jailbroken devices and implement strict controls to prevent them. In addition to restricting a user’s ability to install apps, websites, or explicit media content, most MDM software also provides scanning capabilities to detect whether the operating system had been compromised.
A Powerful Possibility
There are many things that need to be taken into consideration when looking at incorporating the iPad into your business. Yes, there are security implications, but they’re no greater with the iPad than with any other emerging technology. And it appears that this one’s here to stay.
iPad Security Best Practices
- Develop a detailed iPad acceptable use policy.
- Do not allow corporate iPads to be “jailbroken.”
- Centrally manage iPad devices with enterprise management software.
- Develop a security awareness training course surrounding iPad use.
- Implement strong authentication parameters to protect the device from unauthorized users.
- Investigate the source of any apps downloaded; ensure they’re approved via the iTunes store.
- Invest in remote wipe capabilities; this is essential for an instance where the iPad is lost or stolen.