Posts Tagged ‘mobile devices’

By Bernd Reder

As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, the methods by which users access critical business tools must evolve in kind. In the past, the desktop environment and all of the resources it hosted were only accessible if an individual was sitting right in front of his or her computer. But now, with the advent of laptops, tablets and smartphones, we’re seeing a paradigm shift—one in which digital assets are no longer imprisoned by local hard drives.

Virtual desktops allow employees to remotely access their traditional systems from any location, eliminating device storage concerns as well as numerous other headaches for IT managers. For example, if the IT department had to install a suitable desktop environment on every device used by every employee throughout the company, then provide technical support and roll out regular patches for each one, the workload would likely far exceed the department’s capacity.

A Central Virtualized Desktop

With virtual desktops, individuals working off-site can still access all the tools held within their office work stations, from the operating systems to essential applications and associated data. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it is more practical and less cumbersome for IT administrators. All sensitive information and tools are housed and managed in a secure location, mitigating the risks to company data if a security breach compromises an employee’s mobile device.

All of the company resources being accessed remotely are stored in secure data centers. Rather than having to constantly update and patch the myriad of tablets and smartphones that workers use while outside the office, IT managers can focus on deploying security measures that govern remote access privileges. Though this doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility of an attack against an employee’s mobile device affecting the organization, it greatly reduces those risks—more so than any alternative—and better equips IT personnel to safeguard important information.

According to a survey from U.K.-based market research firm Visiongain, more than half of U.S. respondents are either planning to virtualize their desktops or are considering exploring this option within the next 12 months. Visiongain also states that the world market for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) products reached $11.6 billion in 2012, and predicts annual growth of almost 15 percent through 2015.

Where VPNs Come Into Play

Paramount to any VDI is a secure link between the virtual desktop and the device being used by an off-site worker to access it. As such, VPNs are indispensable. They ensure that data is transported across a secured, encrypted connection.

However, this is far from a “one-size-fits-all” solution. On-the-go employees will often use various mediums to connect to their virtual desktops, including public Wi-Fi networks at airports and hotels or local networks at the offices of current or prospective clients. A company’s VPN system has to be configured to securely handle all of these options if users are going to be able to safely and efficiently access their virtual desktop environments. What’s more, VPNs must be able to seamlessly handle transitions from one medium to the next, such as LAN to Wi-Fi, so that the connection is not lost or processes are not interrupted at inopportune times. If access proves problematic, the benefits of VDI begin to dissipate.

In order for companies to tap into the benefits of virtualized desktops, they must invest in robust VPN solutions that account for all possibilities and automatically initiate the proper security settings based on the communication medium an employee is using. Whether in a coffee shop with public Wi-Fi or another office location within the same organization, the VPN should be able to manage them all. Such a task is perfectly fitted to a dynamic personal firewall. Where run-of-the-mill VPN systems might fail, expertly developed and well-matured solutions will not.

Rainer Enders, CTO, Americas at NCP engineering, recently conducted an Execsense webinar around what CIOs and CTOs need to know about mobile device security. Rainer explains how the replacement of static access networks with mobile access networks has led to a paradigm shift in overall network security. Because mobile device protection complements infrastructure protection, enterprises must safeguard their data within hostile mobile access networks, which are made all the more vulnerable in today’s information age.

Taking us further down this journey of murky data classification and the new obstacles IT leaders face with the proliferation of mobile devices and BYOD, Rainer describes what mobile-centric security strategies CIOs and CTOs should implement to ensure optimal network protection. We hope you’ll tune in to the new Execsense webinar here.

 

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The proliferation of social networking and the acceleration of personal devices for corporate use can be a boon for remote workers. Unfortunately, this increase in systems and cross-platform networks can also be a huge opportunity for cybercriminals looking to launch targeted attacks.

In 2012, the sophistication of mobile malware intensified, damaging individuals, businesses and governments alike, revealing one of the year’s top security trends: that the traditional combination of username and password is not a strong enough security barrier.

With this in mind, the following security experts share their thoughts on why more secure authentication methods are needed in 2013:

“The fact is that passwords, as a security technology, are reaching the end of their useful life. Moving to a world where alternative authentication systems are the norm is incredibly difficult, and as a consequence we are entering into a period of time when we are going to have to continue to rely on a security control that doesn’t work. Encouraging users to pick longer passphrases, and proactively auditing networks for weak passwords are steps that can be helpful during this time. Increasingly, we are going to see attackers entering networks with legitimate access credentials without ever having to fire an exploit that would trigger an intrusion detection system. We need to be prepared for this type of attack activity.” Tom Cross, director of security research at Lancope 

“Nine out of 10 intrusions involved compromised identities or authentication systems, so enterprises need to make sure they have a sound process for creating, managing and monitoring user accounts and credentials for all of their systems, devices and networks.”Wade Baker, Verizon RISK Team

“The password-only security model is dead. Here’s why: Easily downloadable tools today can be used to crack a simple four- or five-character password in only a few minutes…Next year, we are likely to see an increase in businesses implementing some form of two-factor authentication for their employees and customers. This will consist of a Web-based login that will require a user password along with a secondary password that will either arrive through a user’s mobile device or a standalone security token. While it is true the recently discovered botnet Zitmo cracked two-factor authentication on Android devices and RSA’s SecurID security token (hacked in 2011), this type of one-two punch is still the most effective method for securing online activities.” –  FortiGuard Labs’ 2013 threat predictions, Fortinet

What do you think? Will authentication attacks, including stolen usernames and passwords, continue to plague network security?

*Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in TechTarget’s SearchEnterpriseWAN.com.

Question: Remote workers in my company access application stores through their mobile devices. How can I ensure app store security for my users?

The best approach is to deploy a mobile device management system that allows the capability to block access to public application stores, as well as allows for a whitelist of allowed applications. Depending on the number of mobile devices and the application requirements, it is best to operate a company-owned application store. This has many advantages and offers the best control overall.

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