“What!?!” That was the general recent reaction to the news that one of the most popular apps on the market, Snapchat, was offered — and turned down! — Facebook’s more than $3 billion cash buyout offer. Whether Snapchat made the right move to hold out remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: we’re creating and sharing more data than ever before.
Thanks to all the gadgets we have access to, any event can now be chronicled online; photos and documents can be sent from person-to-person (even to the wrong people) on mobile devices in an instant. Since there’s no geographic limit to the access of files, what happens to that photo or document once you’ve sent it out into the Ether?
Part of the appeal of Snapchat is the finite length of time that data exists — offering the sender a semblance of control over the information they’re sharing and who has access to it.
This basic concept of Snapchat — a file that has a time limit before it “implodes” — has the potential to completely revolutionize the enterprise. Sensitive information is being shared every second, and while there are security practices in place, once a document has entered the web and resurfaced on someone else’s device, the sender has completely lost control over that information. What if there was a “Snapchat for the enterprise,” or a way for sensitive documents to self-destruct and not live in infamy forever? Would Edward Snowden still be welcome in the United States?
Consumer devices have essentially become a way of life in the workplace, and file-sharing tools like Dropbox are exploding onto the marketplace. It’s time to tap into the Snapchat effect and take a more aggressive approach to locking down enterprise data, as evidenced by a number of novel, noteworthy technologies looking to provide Mission Impossible-style control for secure enterprise information.
File ‘time bombs’
“This message will self destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” Current mobile file management tools allow users to access files within an application on their mobile device, so they remain productive without sacrificing IT’s control of the document through the application. While that’s well and good, IT departments are smart enough to know that once that information is on another device, the information can be shared, stored, and accessed, potentially winding up in the wrong hands despite security precautions. To combat any potential breach, offering IT managers the option to implement a ‘self-destruct’ function is not only Mission Impossible-style cool, it’s incredibly useful. Think of it like a time bomb: the IT department would have control over the shelf life of a specific file, ensuring the information was adequately destroyed once viewed to prevent the sharing of any classified or sensitive data.
Building digital barriers
Just about every device on the market today with wireless capabilities has location awareness. Because of the ability to pinpoint nearly the exact location of a device, a form of security called ‘geofencing’ can be used to allow access based on where someone is located, or notify IT when a device leaves a specific region.
Similar to how the CIA tracked Jason Bourne, IT managers would be able to keep tabs on devices with access to classified information. Additionally, IT teams could create a radius that dictates a device’s access, restriction and notification, allowing employee device usage without any loss of data control. Want to know when your CFO’s device leaves the state? Want to make sure no one outside of the U.S. can access a file? Or if anyone within a certain country can’t access a file? Enterprises can implement that via geofencing.
Long gone are the days of standard authentication (passwords, PINs, etc.) — a freshman at MIT could probably crack even your most secure protective barriers. With the professional use of consumer devices rising rapidly, so does the need for a new, unique security standard. Devices now have video cameras, microphones, and even finger print scanners (like the iPhone 5S), which allow for a more complete security set. Biometric security features like voice, fingerprint, or facial recognition are not only much more challenging to replicate, they provide an additional layer of protection and a more specific indication of who is accessing information.
As legal documents all go digital or financial and medical records need to be shared in a second, there is no doubt that file security is going to be big business in the near future. While companies work to retain control in a world where sharing everything is necessary and possible, keep your eye out for more Snapchat-esque consumer innovations within the business world in 2014.
Anders Lofgren is Vice President of Product Management for the Acronis Mobility Business Unit.