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Protecting Bank Data, One iPhone at a Time

Needham Bank uses MobileIron solutions to secure its company-issued iPhones and iPads.

Massachussets-based Needham Bank ($1 billion in assets) was an early adopter of the iPhone, issuing the earliest versions of the now ubiquitous smartphones to bank executives at a time when the BlackBerry was the device du jour for corporate-sanctioned technology.

The bank continued to issue iPhones -- and later, iPads -- for company use after seeing the success and usefulness of using the devices during the initial rollout. It soon became a strain on the infrastructure of the lean IT department to keep tabs on all the devices issued and implement supporting technology to monitor corporate data residing on these devices.

So in April 2011, Needham Bank implemented MobileIron (Mountain View, Calif.) mobile device management solutions to deliver back-end security and management needed to make these devices enterprise-ready.

"The management of all the iPhones became very difficult, and that's where MobileIron came in to help us out," said James Gordon, VP of IT for Needham Bank.

One big problem that MobileIron helped solve was eliminating the time and effort it took to update the phones when Apple released new software.

"Basically what would happens is when Apple issued a new software update we would have to reach out to that user group (that were issued iPhones) and they had to drop off their phone to IT between a certain time and we'd update it," Gordon says. "It's a time consuming process."

Now Gordon said now the only instruction the bank has to give to employees who are issued iphones is to download MobileIron.

He said the vendor's solution also has made securing the mobile devices easier. MobileIron's platform gives IT administrators the ability to allow which apps can and can't be downloaded. Also, employees who wish to access webmail must go through a VPN connection with two-factor authentication. In addition, any employee who tries to disable the location service through Apple in an effort to avoid being tracked will trigger an alert to the IT department. The user's mobile email will then be automatically disabled until they resolve the issue with IT.

As the bank grew and more mobile devices were issued (currently everyone with the title of VP or higher gets a company-issued iPhone, and many receive iPads as well) Gordon said he looked at several solutions to help ease the demands being placed on the bank's IT infrastructure. These included services offered by Good and McAfee, but Gordon ultimately chose MobileIron after doing some research and discovering that it was endorsed by Apple as a mobile security manager for its products.

Needham is currently engaged in a year-by-year contract with MobileIron to manage up to 100 mobile devices, currently the bank has issued 44. Gordon did not quantify the exact amount of dollars saved by implementing MobileIron at Needham Bank but did say, "if we tried to do all these same checks and balances manually we'd have to add at least one more full-time employee dedicated to the task."

Gordon expects that Needham will continue to work with the vendor, "as long as they continue to be a nimble, agile player in this space; and my expectation is they'll continue to be."

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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