University hospital putting in place BYOD mobile strategy

A teaching hospital based in Israel, Hadassah University Hospital, has devised a plan to be able to support the "bring your own device" (BYOD) wishes voiced by medical staff and students clamoring to use their own mobile devices, while also bringing to bear management and security controls.

"By the end of the year, we'll have 300 users on mobile devices, tablets and smartphones," says Barak Shrefler, the IT and information security manager at the Jerusalem-based hospital. This is the first BYOD wave of medical staff and university students who want to be able to use their own mobile devices on the hospital's networks in different locations. Shrefler said the IT department has come up with a strategy to allow that under certain terms -- only Apple iOS devices are sanctioned, and specific management software for network access control has to be used, in this case ForeScout Technologies CounterACT, says Shrefler.

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"We tested Android and we think it's more vulnerable than iOS," said Shrefler, who says the IT staff are concerned that malware or vulnerability issues around Android will simply result in future headaches, at least more than Apple iOS.

But any individual eligible for BYOD is required to install the ForeScout CounterACT client plug-in software for iOS so that controlled access to the hospital's networks can be made. The hospital already uses CounterACT for controlling user access related to computers and kiosks, and this will be an extension of that in many ways. CounterACT will allow the IT staff to monitor and track use of BYOD devices as relates to the hospital's network and application assets.

Of course, one main consideration is that the hospital won't own the user's mobile device, which will be automatically released from restrictions placed on it as soon as the individual departs the hospital environment.

Many IT managers worry that users will "jailbreak" their Apple devices, a process that eliminates Apple security, and Shrefler acknowledges he thinks about that, too. "We are aware that jailbroken devices are much more vulnerable," he said, pointing out it's quite commonplace for people to jailbreak them. Confronted with that, the hospital is inclined to place stricter access controls on individuals who may insist on using jailbroken iOS devices.

But the BYOD trend, so much discussed in the U.S., seems to be impacting places all across the world, and Shrefler said in his own view, BYOD is really not something that IT departments can ignore -- "It's inevitable."

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email: emessmer@nww.com.

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