Posts Tagged ‘mobility’

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.

Today, Rainer Enders, VPN expert and CTO of Americas at NCP engineering, addresses how IT and data management executives can properly protect their corporate data.

Q: What are the most effective steps IT and data management executives need to take in ensuring the best security for corporate information?

Rainer Enders: There is no substitute for best-of-breed security solutions. IT managers must realize that only betting on one vendor for all security needs will leave security holes in the architecture. A key starting point is the assessment of risk and exposure. For example, if you do not have employees working outside the office, you’ll have far different security implications than if you have a large mobile workforce. Obviously, the cost of the solution must match the assets at risk that will be insured and protected against damage or loss. A clear and concise security policy must be established that involves all the key stakeholders, and the policy must then be implemented and enforced at all levels. This is probably the most important and, sadly, the least followed advice.

Another trap many IT managers fall into is changing security infrastructure too quickly. Rather then taking a blended migration approach, a rip-out-and-replace approach is usually implemented, neglecting benefits and merits of existing incumbent security technologies. This has happened when SSL VPN was introduced to replace IPsec VPN. Customers followed early promises, only to see many companies now returning to the “old” IPsec VPN or adopting a hybrid approach, which would have served them better from the start. So any security architecture framework should follow the technology, not a vendor product roadmap.

If you have any questions on VPNs or anything else related to secure remote access, send them to editor@vpnhaus.com. 

Rainer Enders is CTO, Americas, at NCP engineering.

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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As the Mobile Health Expo 2010 gets underway next month, we’ll feature experts on the topic of mobile health. This week, VPN Haus interviews Dr. Ruchi Dass, mHealth champion and council member for the Gerson Lehrman Group, in a three-part series on mobile health. Dass has been involved in specific healthcare IT, e-learning and ICT projects for the public/private sector in India.

VPN Haus: What are the major trends you’re noticing in healthcare mobility?

Dr. Ruchi Dass: In a country like India where the doctor to patient ratio is 1:900, doctors are a few and work is 24/7. Patients demand low costs, and timely and quality healthcare coverage. For healthcare enterprises, patient data is critical to collect and manage. Hence [mobile] health is primarily aimed at bridging the economic divide in terms of healthcare. Mobility is the key here- many healthcare enterprises which are spread over 10-20 establishments in India are now using VPNs as the enabling technology which allows doctors to use standard public Internet ISPs and high-speed lines to access closed private networks. A simple use case for this is to access virtual patient health records and there are other wireless technologies designed specifically for use in the provision of healthcare, like:

  • Standard mobile enterprise services used by health-care workers, such as remote access to e-mail and health-information systems;
  • Mobile applications to meet a specific need of medical workers, such as mobile prescriptions and remote diagnoses;
  • Applications that play a direct role in the provision of care, such as mobile data collection and wireless transmission of health data; and
  • Consumer-targeted applications to encourage health and help prevent illness.

VPN Haus: What are the security concerns around these trends?

Dass:  Security of patient data is important. Even if you comply with HIPAA, it doesn’t have that depth and breadth of protection, which is required as health care is comprised of exceedingly complex information environments that demand comprehensive patient data security approaches especially when the data is shared across networks. For a simple use case of accessing a patient’s Virtual Electronic Patient Records with a wireless device, there are 3 main security issues to address:

1. To Authenticate & authorize from the wireless to the wired network
2. Secure data share in transit
3. Integrity & good resolution in the information that is requested and visualized by the users/doctors.

Stay tuned, next week we’ll continue our conversation with Dass, discussing the most overrated and underrated mobile health security risks.

Oct 7 – Oct 14