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When Mobile Meets Cloud: Why CASBs Matter

The perception in the industry seems to suggest that most businesses are overwhelmingly using the cloud these days. Surprisingly, the truth is that only 37% actually are. However, within the next four years – by the year 2020 – that number is expected to more than double to a whopping 80%. As  many businesses leave their outdated legacy networks behind, there’s inevitably going to be a scramble to address security challenges that arise from the confluence of cloud and mobile technology as it is widely adopted across companies. One solution for managing the overflow of data is to deploy a Cloud Access Security Broker, or CASB.

One of the biggest challenges, one faces while working with cloud, arises from the fact that data has become ever more accessible from mobile devices. Companies that adopt common cloud providers like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive can suddenly store, sync, and share data at will. Employees sync files to the cloud on their mobile devices in order to access them instantly even when they’re out of the office.

Of course, having data at the fingertips is a good thing. It helps employees to be more productive, efficient, and accessible. However, this genre of  boost to the workflow is a double-edged sword. After all, mobile devices are also one of the leading contributors to data breaches because files aren’t encrypted by default when they’re synced to these devices. This oversight leaves data vulnerable and easily accessible if the mobile devices get lost or stolen. And with 70 million smartphones stolen each year, it is  easy to see how that can amount to a lot of missing data – and why the widespread move to the cloud has the potential to become a massive security headache.

For example, say an engineer syncs several folders full of data to her Dropbox account to continue work at home and then accesses it on her tablet at an off-site meeting. Maybe some of those files contain confidential client information like Social Security Numbers and other identifying data. Also, some of the files can be trade secrets or intellectual property. Others may contain the company’s financial details. Maybe some of the folders have so many files in them that she’s not even sure what she’s syncing. Then, say she accidentally leaves her tablet in a taxi on the way back from the meeting. If her company is relying on the cloud provider’s default security measures (which don’t encrypt the synced files), the company has already suffered a data breach. Those files can be easily accessed by a malicious actor, which can lead to financial problems, client alienation, and massive damage to the company’s reputation.

It really is a challenge to monitor all files being synced between managed and unmanaged mobile devices, and to keep data safe when it’s proliferating on the cloud at a pace which is too quick to keep track of.

Enter the CASB

CASBs have conjured up an almost magical solution for companies seeking to bolster security, improve visibility, and make the confluence of mobile activity and the cloud more manageable. They are making waves in the market nowadays. A CASB provides a centralized location for administrators to monitor the movement of their teams’ data. The platform grants visibility into how files are being accessed and shared and by whom; enforces compliance with federal regulations; maintains data security; and deploys and enforces threat prevention measures. CASBs that access SaaS applications’ APIs, make it easy to monitor files on devices even when there’s a BYOD policy in place. That’s important when so much data is moving off the network and into the cloud, constantly being carried into and out of the office on smartphones and tablets. A CASB lets admins scan files for keywords and ensure that the files that need to be encrypted are actually encrypted. It also lets admins know when a file is being shared externally and when it’s being synced. The best part is that it doesn’t change the user experience at all, making it easy to deploy and easy for employees to use without the hassle of switching to a clunky platform for the sake of security.

So let’s revisit our hypothetical engineer who leaves her tablet in the cab. If her company had deployed a CASB, her team’s administrator could have seen that she was syncing company files to her mobile device, scanned them for keywords indicating confidential or sensitive information, and either stopped the process or ensured adequate encryption and security controls. What’s more, once the employee lost the tablet, admins could have easily revoked access to the files with the touch of a button to make sure that no data got into the wrong hands.

A CASB provides organizations with the kind of visibility and security measures they really need to keep track of their ever-changing, ever-mobile data. At a time when 74 percent of U.S. organizations allow or plan in the next year to allow their employees to use personal devices at work, maintaining control over corporate data is paramount. It is been clear for very long that protecting the perimeter is no longer enough.  Even deploying smart measures like encryption isn’t sufficient  anymore either. The sheer volume of files being created, synced, and shared in today’s workplace is effectively unmanageable without a CASB that lets you know exactly where all your sensitive files are and lets you keep them secure.