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How To Optimize Microsoft intune Using Symmetrium to Boost Security and Lower Costs

In today’s dynamic mobile cybersecurity landscape, where new threats are constantly and rapidly evolving, CISOs and security teams need to continuously focus on how best to fortify their defenses.

Organizations with existing Microsoft 365 and Azure subscriptions, often turn to Microsoft Intune to secure and manage all company-issued devices, as well as personal devices accessing work data through BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs. 

Intune enables Microsoft users to manage devices (phones, laptops, etc.) alongside other Microsoft services. Since Intune works within the Microsoft ecosystem, it can align well with an organization’s existing technology stack.

 

Managing The Cost and Complexity of Intune

While Intune offers several benefits such as device management, application management, and security policy enforcement, there are also some downsides to consider.

Cost: While Intune is part of Microsoft 365, it can be relatively expensive. The cost becomes more pronounced when scaling up the levels of protection.

Security: It is important to note that Intune provides the management layer, but implementing a defense layer requires an additional Mobile Threat Detection (MTD) solution. Microsoft’s MS Defender can fulfill this role but requires an additional payment on top of the cost of Intune.

Complexity in Setup and Management: The initial setup can be complex, while configuring conditional access, compliance settings, and application management requires a deep understanding of the platform. Intune also requires a separate setup for Android and iOS.

Limited Support for Non-Windows Devices: Although Intune supports iOS, Android, and macOS devices, its features are most comprehensive for Windows devices.

Dependency on Internet Connectivity: Being a cloud-based service, Intune requires consistent internet connectivity for management and policy enforcement.

While Microsoft Intune is a powerful tool for managing devices and protecting corporate data, it’s important for organizations to consider these potential downsides. Careful planning, clear policies, and ongoing management are key to mitigating these issues and making the most out of Intune.

 

Using Symmetrium with Intune Provides the Optimal, Cost-Effective and Efficient Mobile Security Solution

If you are considering using or currently have a subscription to Intune, to gain the full suite of security benefits you will need to pay extra money to get the full suite of protection. There’s another additional cost if you want to add Microsoft Defence. You’ll also pay extra to manage and secure WiFi connectivity. With Symmetrium you get the full capability from the get-go in one solution. You will never have to decide to add extra features and absorb the resulting additional costs.

Implementing mobile security can be daunting, resource intensive and costly. Symmetrium’s streamlined approach allows for the cost effective and efficient management of multiple devices, regardless of their brand or operating systems, from within Intune.

 

How Symmetium Optimizes Microsoft Intune

Enterprises using Intune don’t want the headache of managing additional tools and solutions. But by implementing Symmetrium they can quickly optimize the usage of Intune by treating Symmetrium just like any device in their Intune system. This means they can manage Symmetrium from within Intune to:

1) Maximize Security

Using Symmetrium in addition to Intune, instantly provides extra layers of security:

a. Web Protection — Symmetrium resides on a server within the organization network, which means organizations can uphold existing enterprise security protocols while effectively safeguarding data and resources. This enables security teams to manage the network from the server side, with no need for special tools to manage on the client/device side.

b. Malware Protection — With no data residing on mobile devices, there is no need to manage and protect the physical device.

c. Jailbreak Detection — Symmetrium can detect, analyze and block a jailbroken device before it makes a connection.

d. Network Protection — Symmetrium’s Virtual Mobile Devices (VMDs), which reside in the protection of the corporate IT infrastructure, uses the server network. The connection between the Symmetrium app and server is P2P encrypted.

e. Conditional Access — Symmetrium can easily be configured to provide conditional access. Any devices that try to connect that do not have access privileges will be instantly detected and blocked before they can make a connection. Symmetrium also provides extra conditional access, such as geolocation, device OS, and state.

2) Lower Costs

When using Symmetrium, organizations do not need a mobile threat defense (MTD) vendor, such as Microsoft Defender. This has several benefits.

– They don’t have to pay extra for security.

– MTD apps monitor threats by checking OS versions, system parameters, firmware, and device configurations. Symmetrium, however, stores all data in the cloud not on individual devices. This means it is not affected by threats at the device level.

– When an MTD detects an infected device that is integrated with Intune, the conditional access blocks email and managed apps, which affects the workflow. This scenario does not impact the usage of Symmetrium, because, unlike standard MDM and MTD solutions, the device itself holds no organizational data. So even if the device is infected with malware, the user can continue to work, because the data it accesses via Symmetrium will not be put at risk. In addition, Symmetrium validates if the hardware is jailbroken, rooted, using a custom ROM and can set the requirement for the minimum OS level.

3) Seamless Deployment and Management

Symmetrium allows Intune users to lower costs and improve security, all while using their existing settings and setup. This is because Symmetrium can be managed directly within Microsoft Intune. This means your IT team does not have to worry about using and configuring another management tool. They can use the same set of policies currently being used in Intune and simply treat Symmetrium as if they are managing a new device. It saves time and headaches as you already have a policy set up within Intune, so you can simply use it again.

They can use the same set of policies currently being used in Intune and simply treat Symmetrium as if they are managing a new device. It saves time and headaches as you already have a policy set up within Intune, so you can simply use it again.

Employee privacy is also strengthened using Symmetrium. If we compare standard devices managed by Intune, the user needs to install the agent, grant permission, install MTD, etc, directly on their device. With Symmetrium, the user only downloads the Symmetrium app to access the managed device.

Another important difference from Intune is that Symmetrium doesn’t need the client to be connected to update policy, apps, block access, etc. Whereas if you are using Intune you need an internet connection on the end-user device to get the update.

 

The Bottom Line: The Perfect Blend for Optimal Security, Cost Effectiveness and Seamless Management within InTune

To address the vulnerability of diverse endpoints and the inherent risk of exposing sensitive data outside the secure corporate network, Symmetrium’s unique approach transforms all mobile devices into secure virtual extensions of an organization’s network. And when blended with Microsoft Intune, it offers the optimal secure environment for the most cost-effective and resource-efficient solution for mobile security. So, when looking to balance the optimum solution in mobile security using Intune with the minimum TCO, Symmetrium provides the perfect match.

Discover how easy it is to lower the costs of your Intune mobile data protection while adding ease-of use to optimize your network security by booking a demo with Symmetrium here.

The Rise of AI-Powered Cyberattacks on Mobile Devices: A Growing Threat to Organizations

In today’s super connected hybrid workplaces, mobile devices have become indispensable tools. They enable employees to work remotely, access data, and communicate efficiently. However, with the increasing adoption of mobile technology comes a new frontier for cybercriminals: the exploitation of vulnerabilities using artificial intelligence (AI).

AI offers hackers a powerful arsenal of tools and techniques to launch sophisticated cyberattacks, including voice cloning. By harnessing the capabilities of AI by using ChatGPT, for example, hackers can conduct research into targets to improve scripts and help build social engineering techniques.

 

Exploiting The AI Advantage in Cyberattacks

AI-powered tools can automate the process of reconnaissance, identifying potential targets and gathering information about mobile devices and network infrastructure. This automation enables hackers to scale their attacks and target a large number of devices simultaneously, increasing their chances of success.

Traditional malware detection mechanisms rely on signature-based approaches to identify known threats. However, AI-powered malware can dynamically adapt and evolve to evade detection by learning from its environment and adjusting its behavior in real-time. This makes it challenging for organizations to detect and mitigate AI-driven malware attacks effectively.

AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to personalize phishing attacks, making them more convincing and difficult to detect. By mimicking the writing style, voice and behavior of trusted contacts or organizations, AI-powered phishing attacks can trick employees into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links, compromising the security of their mobile devices and the entire organization.

 

Why Traditional Security Solutions Are Vulnerable

The integration of AI techniques into cyberattacks poses significant challenges for organizations seeking to protect their mobile devices and data. Traditional boundary-based security methods are struggling to cope with the use of AI by hackers for several reasons:

1) Adaptability and Dynamism: AI-powered attacks are highly adaptable and dynamic, constantly evolving to evade detection and exploit vulnerabilities. Traditional boundary-based security methods rely on static rules and signatures to identify threats, making them ineffective against AI-driven attacks that can quickly change their tactics and behaviors.

2) Complexity and Sophistication: AI-powered attacks are often more complex and sophisticated than traditional cyber threats, making them harder to detect and mitigate using traditional security measures. Hackers can use AI to analyze vast amounts of data, identify vulnerabilities, and develop custom attack techniques tailored to specific targets, making it challenging for boundary-based security methods to keep pace.

3) Stealth and Evasion Techniques: AI-powered attacks can employ stealth and evasion techniques to bypass traditional security defenses. For example, AI-powered malware can dynamically alter its code to avoid detection by antivirus software, or AI-powered phishing attacks can mimic the behavior of legitimate users to evade detection by email security filters.

4) Scale and Automation: AI enables hackers to scale their attacks and automate various stages of the cyber kill chain, from reconnaissance to exploitation to exfiltration. Traditional boundary-based security methods may struggle to cope with the sheer scale and automation of AI-driven attacks, leading to gaps in security coverage and increased risk of successful breaches.

5) Limited Visibility and Context: Traditional boundary-based security methods typically provide limited visibility and context into network traffic and user behavior, making it difficult to detect subtle signs of AI-driven cyberattacks. Hackers can exploit these blind spots to launch stealthy attacks that go unnoticed by traditional security defenses until it’s too late.

 

Symmetrium: A Paradigm Shift in Mobile Security

The rise of AI-powered cyberattacks represents a watershed moment in cybersecurity, necessitating a fundamental rethink of traditional security approaches. To effectively defend against the evolving tactics of cybercriminals, organizations must adapt their security strategies.

Traditional security strategies often prioritize protecting devices and individuals, overlooking the critical aspect of safeguarding data. Symmetrium shifts the focus to data security while minimizing the need for extensive infrastructure changes. It achieves this by offering a device-agnostic, low-resource solution that seamlessly integrates with existing information and security technology infrastructures. Rather than overhauling systems, Symmetrium enhances data protection by introducing virtual mobile devices (VMDs) within the organization’s network perimeter.

These VMDs operate in tandem with established enterprise security protocols, allowing authorized remote and third-party users to securely access data using their own devices. Leveraging P2P encrypted streaming, Symmetrium’s VMDs enable users to view data without physically transferring it to external devices, ensuring that sensitive information remains within the secure organizational network.

By keeping data within the protected perimeter, Symmetrium significantly reduces the risk of data compromise or unauthorized access, providing organizations with peace of mind in an increasingly complex security landscape.

Schedule a demo today to experience the future of remote access security firsthand.

What Google Can Teach Organizations About Mobile Security and Malware’s Use as a Weapon of War

Targeting mobile phones with malicious software is now one of the tools of choice when it comes to waging war, according to a report released by Google. The research focuses on the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, where the phones and tablets of civilians and military personnel are being targeted to disrupt communications, steal sensitive information, spread misinformation and potentially put lives at risk. This sinister use of malware is adding a new dimension to modern warfare, underlining the importance of the digital battlefield.

Google has been actively monitoring spikes in cyber threats and mobile malware to safeguard their users during these conflicts. This has revealed fresh insights into phishing campaigns, hack-and-leak operations, information warfare, disruptive attacks and other cyber activities to its Threat Analysis Group (TAG), Mandiant, and Trust & Safety teams.

A significant number of cyber attacks involve spyware campaigns that rely on malicious mobile apps, which are playing a substantial role in gathering intelligence by targeting data at rest on users’ devices, including messages, contacts, real-time location, and other sensitive data.

 

Anatomy of a Mobile Spyware Campaign

In its report, Google details the key elements of the spyware campaigns and their sequence being used in conflict zones and beyond:

1) Delivery to user: This is the first stage of the attack and its primary emphasis lies in persuading users to install malicious applications through SMS phishing or social engineering techniques employed on social media and messaging applications.

2) Installation: The spyware might disguise itself as a legitimate application, tricking the user into granting access to sensitive information, including SMS and location data.

3) Gather and steal information: Following installation, the spyware has the capability to collect various information about the device, including but not limited to location, contacts, SMS, and audio recordings.

4) Exfiltration of the data: The malicious application might store any data that comes to rest on that device or pilfered data in an encrypted file, transmit it to command and control infrastructure controlled by the attacker, and subsequently erase the file from the device.

Malicious apps can be hard to detect by users because they often cloak themselves in legitimacy, mimicking commonly used utilities like VPNs and messaging apps like Telegram. However, beneath the surface lurk standard backdoor features, designed to turn the user’s device into a surveillance tool.

Unlike Apple’s App Store, which is famously a ‘walled garden’ from which it controls all app distribution, Android users can download apps from Google Store and alternative third-party channels. This allows groups involved in conflicts to distribute Android spyware through apps not verified by Google, employing SMS phishing and social engineering tactics on social media and chat platforms to trick users into installing them.

 

Targeting the Weakest Link

Humans are often considered the weak link in mobile malware attacks due to their susceptibility to manipulation. Mobile malware attackers frequently exploit human vulnerabilities through tactics such as phishing, where users are tricked into clicking on malicious links or downloading harmful applications. Social engineering techniques, including deceptive messages and fraudulent websites, capitalize on human trust and curiosity.

Moreover, users may inadvertently grant unnecessary permissions to seemingly benign apps, allowing malicious software to access sensitive information. Lack of awareness, complacency, and a tendency to overlook security warnings contribute to the effectiveness of mobile malware attacks. Human behavior plays a pivotal role in the success of these attacks, making it crucial for individuals to stay informed, exercise caution, and adopt security best practices to mitigate the risks associated with mobile malware.

 

Lessons for Organizations

Mobile malware attacks during conflicts offer several harsh lessons for organizations:

Preying on urgency: These attacks exploit heightened emotions and the need for information during crises. Malicious actors disguise malware as legitimate apps, like fake air raid sirens or news sources, to trick users into downloading them. Organizations should remind staff to be cautious of unexpected app downloads, especially during volatile times.

Targeting vulnerabilities: Conflict zones often have limited access to reliable internet and software updates. This creates a breeding ground for malware targeting outdated operating systems with known vulnerabilities. Organizations should prioritize keeping software updated on all devices and enforce strong password policies.

Importance of a ‘walled garden’ approach: Organizations should implement a ‘walled garden’ approach to ensure a secure environment that controls employees’ access to apps. Such a policy enhances security by only allowing the downloading of approved apps from verified sources.

Evolving tactics: Cybercriminals are constantly adapting their methods. For instance, malware might steal user data for espionage or disrupt critical infrastructure. Organizations should have up-to-date security solutions and conduct regular training for employees on cybersecurity best practices.

Importance of backups: Malware attacks can render devices unusable or erase critical data. Organizations should have robust backup and recovery plans in place to minimize disruption and data loss.

Global threats: These attacks highlight the borderless nature of cyberwarfare. An attack targeting one region can have ripple effects worldwide. Organizations should be prepared for potential spillover and have incident response plans in place.

Data at Rest is Data that is Vulnerable: Once attackers have infiltrated a phone they have complete access to the data that comes to rest on that device. Thus the data is no longer in the secure confines of the corporate network environment and is exposed and vulnerable on the device it is now residing on. Symmetrium negates this vulnerability by ensuring no data comes to rest on devices outside of the security of the corporate network.

 

Mobile Security — A New Battlefield Challenge

The digital realm is now an undeniable battleground, with the tentacles of malware created during conflicts stretching far beyond war zones to potentially impact organizations. This should be of major concern as most businesses have a fundamental flaw in their mobile security strategy and are vulnerable because they place an emphasis on users and devices rather than on data.

Symmetrium uses a walled-garden approach by transforming any mobile device, whether managed or unmanaged, into a virtual extension of the organization’s network, incorporating all compliance, security, and IT protocols. Once users enter this secure mobile workspace they only have access to approved apps, and any data accessed never comes to rest on their device. Symmetrium also protects against SMS phishing (Smishing), by scanning every message and integrating with existing email security tools before delivery to end users.

Businesses operating in the health services, finance, telecom and utilities sectors should be most aware of the dangers of mobile malware and potential flaws in their mobile security due to the valuable data they hold and their strategic importance.

For cybercriminals, a successful attack on any of these sectors can lead to financial gain through identity theft, extortion, or the disruption of critical services. The organizations attacked will also face large fines for regulatory violations due to any lapse in the security of the sensitive data they hold. This is why, as we navigate periods of global uncertainty, the lessons learned here by governments and corporations operating in highly regulated environments hold immense value.

Read more about the use of malware in conflicts in Google’s latest report.

Why Enterprises Need To Rethink Their Approach To Third-Party Data Access

Zero-trust security environments have a major problem — once a third-party user is approved and given access they can still wreak havoc, whether intentionally or not. A new, innovative solution using virtual mobile devices solves this flaw, creating the zero-trust environments needed to help highly regulated industries keep data private and protected.

The threat landscape organizations face is constantly in flux as new ways to access and compromise data evolve. But while many of these threats will emanate from adversaries, such as hackers and cyber criminals, giving third-party employees access to sensitive and confidential data is a growing security problem. 

Full-time staff can be clampdowned upon with strict security policies, but third party vendors many companies heavily rely upon are vastly more difficult to manage. The extent of this threat is underlined by the findings of the Intel471 threat intelligence report, which found that 51% of companies have experienced a data breach caused by a third party. 

Zero-trust strategies are a key defense against this growing threat, where a barrier is created around an organization’s IT assets and the default security posture is not to trust connections and grant the minimum of privileges. This requires all users and devices to be authenticated before they connect. 


The Flaw in Zero-Trust Environments

The problem, however, is that zero-trust policies are focused on protecting and managing users, and not the actual data. So when users are granted permission, the data they access using their mobile device sits on that device. There are, of course, endpoint data protection layers that encrypt or use data-wiping tools to digitally sterilize devices of sensitive data. But this happens after the user has had access to the actual data through their devices. This is highly problematic, especially in highly regulated sectors. 

Think of healthcare facilities, for example, where thousands of remote employees and third parties (from doctors to labs) constantly need to access highly confidential patient information, known as electronic protected health information (ePHI). The confidentiality, integrity, and availability of this data is highly regulated and any breach is subject to substantial sanctions and reputational damage. The failure to encrypt and protect mobile devices containing ePHI recently resulted in a $3 Million HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) penalty for a New York Medical Center after two reported data breaches occurred from a lost flash drive and stolen laptop

The financial services sector is also governed by strict data regulations, which place substantial pressure on securing remote and hybrid work environments given the adoption of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) practices. 

Power plants and large utilities, where thousands of third-party contractors conduct on-site maintenance all at once, are also highly susceptible to data breaches even though it is critical they keep their highly sensitive information secure. 

The one common feature and underlying security weakness linking all these sectors is their heavy reliance on giving third-party employees access to highly private and strictly regulated data. 


Problems With Current UEM Solutions

In an ideal world organizations would simply supply every vendor or contractor with a verified, secured and compliant device to maintain the integrity of their zero-trust environment. In reality, however, this is simply too time-consuming to manage and would slow down the productivity of third parties. Trying to implement security protocols on the devices of vendors and contractors is also problematic, as many of these will already be managed by the organization they belong to. 

For those organizations that have found a way to manage third-party devices, the onboarding and offboarding of these devices is a complex and time-consuming task for the IT department. This is because the current unified end-point management (UEM) solutions and strategies implemented by organizations lack the flexibility and low-resource approach to effectively manage high volumes of end points in a zero-trust environment to ensure data remains secure and they remain compliant. 


How to Effectively Ensure Secure Third-Party Access

The use of a virtual mobile device (VMD), a solution designed by Symmetrium, can now create the zero-trust environment needed to help highly regulated industries keep data private and protected, avoiding breaches and massive fines.

These VMDs are deployed to reside in, and become part of, the organization’s own IT environment. The result is a far easier life for CIOs and IT departments thanks to the less complicated management of zero-trust security environments for third party vendors because:

  1. Symmetrium’s VMDs become a virtual extension of all existing compliance safety and IT, offering a native experience and are seamlessly deployed.

  2. They immediately allow BYOD environments to become zero trust with custom end-to-end encrypted streaming and no data at rest, for everyone. This means that each mobile user is treated as an on-prem laptop, which they can control when and where users can access data.

  3. This minimum-resources mobile management solution needs very light operational requirements and delivers high security compliance demands that integrate smoothly into existing data access protocols. The result is the easiest onboarding and offboarding of third-party users with one single app. 

Even the most highly advanced data protection solutions and authentication protocols, still allow data at rest, thus making them vulnerable. This is where Symmetrium’s zero-trust data protection solution sets itself apart — data never leaves the confines of the organization’s network. It enables organizations to provide zero-trust mobile access with no data at rest. This allows productive collaboration with third-party vendors while dramatically minimizing the risk of data breaches. 

Isn’t it time you reconsidered your approach to third-party data access? Book a demo with Symmetrium here.

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