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3 Tips For Enabling Data Security and Mobility at Government Agencies

October marks the end of the US federal government’s fiscal year, and Imation’s mobile security experts are very busy discussing the benefit of our solutions with IT staffs at various agencies. We typically see an increase in interest near the end of the fiscal year, but there are a couple of reasons why our IronKey secure USB solutions are more top-of mind this year than in the past.

There is an increased focus from government agencies on enabling computer mobility. Like many other sectors, government agencies understand that mobile devices make employees more productive, a fact which was backed up as recently as May in an 1105 Government Information Group report. IronKey secure USB data storage devices and IronKey Workspace Windows To Go solutions enable end user mobility, as government employees can take their data and desktop environments with them wherever they go securely.

Microsoft Windows 8 spotlights how USB devices can serve as a secure, mobile computing alternative for BYOD. Microsoft cites Windows To Go, which enables a fully functioning Windows desktop to be booted from a USB device, as a key enterprise feature of Windows 8. Government agencies are taking notice.

At the same time, government IT staffs are justifiably concerned about security. The same 1105 Government Information Group report cited earlier notes that agencies are providing their employees with agency-issued devices, primarily because they are worried about the lack of control. A government mobility policy in these situations shifts away from BYOD, since employees cannot bring their own devices.

Any solution involving mobile devices (whether through employee devices or agency-provided devices) must include policies and technology to protect against data leakage or misused data.

In general, we offer these tips as part of such policies:

1) Access control: Agencies must establish and enforce strict methods for granting device access.

2) Auditing: IT departments should schedule frequent audits to make sure that devices are in the right hands and are being used appropriately.

3) Remote kill: Government agencies should deploy mobile solutions that enable remote kill capabilities, so that devices can be erased or destroyed if they fall into the wrong hands.

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California Cracks Down: Companies Must Encrypt Personal Data

The California Attorney General has issued a major data breach report, finding that more than 2.5 million people were affected by 131 reported data breaches within the state, with 56% of the breaches including disclosure of Social Security numbers.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is calling for wider use of encryption and increased training for employees and contractors on handling personal information. InfoWorld reports that, “her office “will make it an enforcement priority to investigate breaches involving unencrypted personal information” and will “encourage … law-enforcement agencies to similarly prioritize these investigations.”  She also recommends employee and contractor training on how to handle personal information.

Imation did its own review of U.S. data breach laws in 2012, and created the “heat map” graphic below, based on the strictness of those laws. California was a forerunner in data breach laws; while most state laws are similar, requirements and penalties vary widely.

As we’ve noted before, encryption is the foundation for protecting personal data. 

Having data encrypted at the time of the breach means, under most (but not all) of these laws, (because the data is unreadable) that loss or theft of a USB device or laptop doesn’t require reporting. Also, as the California report notes, keep security awareness campaigns active so workers stay alert to the risks.

By taking a few pragmatic precautions, the majority of risks can be greatly mitigated. So the next time an employee loses a notebook or an encrypted flash drive that held protected data, if it’s been properly encrypted and managed you’ll have may well have endured a non-event.

Compliance Heat Map

Imation Compliance Heat Map. Click to view full-sized image.

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The Mobile Worker – A Look Back and a Look Ahead

In 2011, there were approximately 1.3 billion mobile workers and this number is expected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2015, according to IDC.  And as the breadth of our mobile workforce expands, the opportunity for targeted data breaches is increasing exponentially as well.

The rise of the teleworker is a boon to business and government organizations. At the same time, the expanding mobile workforce is fueling the evolving threat landscape — Symantec’s 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report notes that cybercriminals targeting mobile devices and mobile vulnerabilities doubled from 2010 to 2011.  IT departments must find new ways to protect corporate data at risk of malicious penetration from the outside, and malicious or careless insiders as well.

So what does this mean for the IT department? A new generation of mobile workers needs secure, portable workspace environments, and secure mobile device control systems.

Here’s another look at our advice for IT departments managing a worker-on-the-go:

  • Staff need to be educated on the responsibilities of handling mobile devices and the data security risks
    Proper training has to be a major part of educating staff on how to use mobile technology in order to do their jobs without risking a data breach.
  • Implement secure computing solutions that allow employees secure access to what they need
    Teleworkers need to be able to conduct their daily business from any location and must therefore be equipped with hardware encrypted solutions with strong user authentication.
  • Provide a secure platform that locks down the host-computer
    As organizations continue to accept that mobile workspaces are extremely convenient and flexible, advanced centralized deployment and management are key elements of maintaining and controlling a secure environment.
  • Make it easy and convenient enough to avoid workarounds
    Mobile devices must act like the desktop an employee has left at their office otherwise users will inevitably break security protocols.

Employees and IT organizations should learn from the security-related mistakes of the past. Technological advancements to the ways in which we work will continue to evolve and while it is not something that we want to stop but we must leverage the lessons learned and be smarter about mobile safety.

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Welcome to the New IronKey

IronKey™ is back, and bigger than ever.

Last October, I wrote about what it means for the IronKey brand to be a part of Imation. We’ve been working hard to retell the story of IronKey, and to expand our IronKey line to meet a wider array of secure storage needs.

You can see the first phase of the results in living color on the new IronKey.com, launched this week, where you’ll find the latest on our IronKey Workspace™ and latest high-security IronKey X250™ flash drives.

Over the next 90 days, you’ll see us further extending the IronKey brand to our Defender™ line of secure flash drives and hard disk drives. With their origins at Imation TM and MXI Security, these are some of the highest security drives available, and offer unique features such as biometric authentication. And look for new -products from us in the coming months to help you secure  your mobile workforce.

We hope you’ll find the new IronKey.com a richer experience that informs and inspires – and helps you more quickly get to the tools you need to safeguard your organization.  Let me know what you think of our new online home at imsblog@imation.com.