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Summary

With the progressive adoption of virtualization across all infrastructure layers, it is possible to rethink the traditional security boundary. When the security perimeter is reduced, endpoint management is simplified and security is improved, while at the same time, end users are allowed greater freedom.

Identify the perimeter and protect what is important

Government agencies have traditionally operated in an environment of strong controls around IT systems based on defined information classification schemes. In many cases, such schemes result in the classification of mundane information at a higher level than necessary, and access to it is then locked down on all systems.

Although this may appeal to management because it seems simple, it often results in two negative consequences. First, the vast majority of material is over-protected, which is costly, and second, higher than necessary restrictions on users’ activities to protect the small percentage of truly sensitive material leads to poor user outcomes.

Whether the security perimeter is physical or virtual, reducing it to encircle sensitive information as closely as possible and not additional resources that the organization cares less about reduces complexity and risk.

With the maturing and progressive adoption of virtualized desktop infrastructure (VDI), it is possible to maintain a stronger but smaller perimeter around the information that requires it while allowing greater flexibility outside. Endpoint devices, whether PCs, thin-clients, or mobile devices, can be subject to more permissive local management regimes when information remains within the data center.

A similar perimeter-reduction idea can be achieved through the use of containerization technologies in mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

Without containerization, the perimeter is the entire mobile device – and organizations have to manage all aspects of its configuration to the endorsed security standard. With containerization, the perimeter is pulled back to the container, with the sensitive information inside corporately managed and everything outside unmanaged, from an organizational viewpoint. Sensitive material is managed appropriately without the overhead of administering complex hardware configurations or limiting the user experience with excessive and unwarranted lock-down.

Unfortunately, every high-profile information security breach renews calls to “lock everything down” as a knee-jerk reaction to perceived system inadequacies. The challenge for agencies is to correctly identify and manage their information security boundaries, minimizing the material held within the “inner sanctum” and communicating throughout the organization why this is the most appropriate approach.

Appendix

Further reading

“Government can’t afford not to manage BYOD,” IT0007-000788 (November 2014)

The Viability of VDI in 2015, IT0022-000281 (January 2015)

“UK government issues BYOD guidance for private and public sector organizations,” IT0021-000025 (September 2014)

Author

Al Blake, Principal Analyst, Public Sector

al.blake@ovum.com

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