Facebook AppLinks: The Next Enterprise Mobile Security Sieve?

Since Facebook went public, its appetite to cull and then leverage user data for advertisement, or any revenue generating purposes, has grown more voracious each quarter. Mobile usage though has always been problematic for the house that Zuckerberg built. Facebook’s unique ability to raise the ire of dominant mobile OS platforms like iOS and Android has caused for frustrating experiences on smartphones and tablets, and we all remember the absolute debacle of Facebook Home last year.

However, at yesterday’s F8 Developer’s Conference, Facebook threw down the gauntlet for data dominance with AppLinks. This deep linking platform for data swapping between apps and across operating systems promises to deliver a nirvana of purchasing simplicity that has been rather arduous for app developers until now.

AppLinks Mobile Fiefdoms Overthrown

Mobile content is a business plain and simple. While end users need it for productivity, make no mistake that the three major operating systems will do everything in their power to make sharing data across their respective platforms as difficult as possible. By taking the OS agnostic route, Facebook is positioned to become the trusted source for finding mobile information in a very similar fashion to Google’s dominance over Web data.

The Consumer to Enterprise Conundrum

AppLinks promises a new nirvana of purchasing power for the consumer. Imagine you are reading a movie review on Rotten Tomatoes, with AppLinks in play you will be able to seamlessly jump to Fandango to purchase tickets, or for older films, simply jump to the streaming service of choice. It’s an effortless flow of data, which is not impossible today, but it’s also not easy. Of course this will deliver a plethora of new pop-up advertising, but at this point we have all succumbed to the fact that any connected activity will be used to sell us.

For enterprises though, this seamless information sharing waves an enormous red flag of danger. Unsecured corporate apps or data on mobile devices could leave an open door for AppLinks to grab sensitive corporate data and disseminate it…to…well anyone. Advertisers to savvy Blackhats skilled at setting up legitimate fronts for their nefarious activities could become privy to data that should only be seen by company eyes.

Readying Mobile for an AppLinks World

Despite the dangers, improving the user experience on mobile devices should never be thwarted. Rather, it is incumbent upon IT departments to layer in the right protection, especially when dealing with a large stable of BYOD users.

IBM WorkLight can take on half the battle. With this rich suite of app development tools, Applink connectivity can be taken off the table at the code level during development. For legacy apps, or companies without the coffers to cough-up the cash for the WorkLight, there’s always the protection offered by Mobile Application Management. In this scenario, IT has the ability to blacklist any apps on users’ devices that might be part of the AppLinks networks. If this approach is too draconian as Applinks gains prominence and you have a wide swath of BYOD users, another option is Application Security inside a mobile container. In this scenario, all corporate data (including apps) remain separate from the user’s personal life.

No matter what tactic you take as an enterprise, the only wrong course of action is inaction. How do you plan to prepare for AppLinks? Let us know in the comments.

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