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By Lynne Sampson
Like most aspiring writers, I loved going to the library as a kid. I had a library card as soon as I was old enough to sign my name—creased and frayed from overuse, tucked inside my mom’s wallet. Mom and I handed our cards to the librarian at each visit, and she looked up our names in the library register and compared our signatures to the ones on our cards.
This old-fashioned, analog ID system was around for a long time. It was less than 10 years ago that my local library replaced paper cards with plastic ones, with a photo ID and a magnetic stripe.
Today, analog IDs have gone the way of cursive script. Nearly all IDs are digital. Since the rise of the internet, our banks, employers, and apps ask us for a plethora of user names, passwords, and security questions to prove that we are who we say we are.
This is a nuisance for absent-minded consumers who make frequent use of the “Forgot My Password” button. But it’s an even bigger problem for the companies and employers that we do business with.
“Mobile has become the platform of choice for everything from work to vacationing,” said Naresh Persaud, senior director of security product marketing at Oracle. “That adds a layer of complexity to identity management that most organizations haven’t had to deal with before.”
Consider the way we work. “Many companies have salespeople who travel constantly. They use their tablets all the time, and they want to log into their applications, track their deals, check and assign new leads. They like the mobile experience because it’s familiar and easy to navigate,” Persaud said.
What’s not so easy is provisioning all those mobile devices for a corporate network—especially as more and more of us use our personal devices for work.
Adding further complexity to the mix, a growing volume of marketing, selling, and hiring is done via social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. “Many of us need social tools integrated into our mobile identities,” Persaud continued. For example, one B2B company tracks new leads coming in from marketing campaigns and then checks the prospect’s ID on LinkedIn. If the sales manager finds a rep who is already part of the prospect’s LinkedIn network, he’ll assign the lead to that rep, using existing relationships to gain an introduction.
And it’s not just customers or employees who companies must think about. “At some companies, like online music providers, the product itself is digital.” This is becoming more common as the “sharing economy” (driven by apps like Uber and Airbnb) takes flight. This means keeping track of which user has access to which products and services. “We’ve entered a world of ‘digital abundance,’ where our mobile ID becomes the currency of entitlement,” Persaud said.
What does it take to manage our mobile identities? How do companies give employees and customers access to all their apps, systems, and products from a multitude of devices?
Companies need to establish policies, technologies, and best practices to manage and audit the use of mobile devices. Mobile should be an integral part of your company’s larger security and identity strategy.
“You need an integrated platform that provisions access to data and systems, manages the identities of people, and authenticates devices,” Persaud explained. “Integrated” is the key ingredient when it comes to managing mobile identities. Using separate security solutions for data, devices, and people makes it more complicated for customers and employees to get access to the tools they need. Plus, a single identity for each user—no matter which device they’re on—can help you maximize conversion and revenue.
“A great example of this is Beachbody,” Persaud said. Beachbody provides home fitness products and creates a community for members trying to reach their physical fitness goals. “Instead of physical locations, Beachbody delivers products and services via the web and mobile devices.” To connect with millions of customers and thousands of fitness coaches, Beachbody needed to digitize identity and do it securely across multiple channels. “Mobile was perhaps the most important part of their identity management project,” Persaud added, “because it’s become the platform of choice for consumers.”
Our mobile identities are somewhat akin to DNA—unique, evolving, and hugely complicated. Someday, our DNA might actually be the key that we use to access all technology and services, from pension checks to downloaded music. Until that happens, though, companies need to work with mobile identities. That means working with an integrated security suite that includes mobile as a consideration equal to data and people.