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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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Enabling BYOD with a Secure Windows To Go IronKey Workspace

We have now announced Microsoft certification and general availability of our IronKey Workspace W500. Microsoft’s certification process is a rigorous one, so we are extremely pleased to put this stamp of approval on our latest Windows To Go solution. And we’re excited to bring our secure PC on a Stick platform to the Windows To Go solution set.

According to Intel’s IT Manager survey on the current state of BYOD, one of the two largest barriers to BYOD adoption is that the devices used by employees cannot support security, encryption or remote wipe.  The IronKey Workspace W500 solves IT managers’ security concerns with its hardware based encryption, ability to issue ‘silver bullet’ commands to remote wipe the device, and centralized management.  The IronKey Workspace W500 is truly an IT provisioned, IT managed and IT secured device that fits into your network.

intel barriers snap

Source: Intel

Gartner predicts that half of companies will require BYOD in 2017, and as this trend spreads from mobile phones and smartphones to the PC, our Windows To Go workspace offerings position us strongly in this space. Strong market interest in our solutions backs up this trend – for example, we have initiated pilots large organizations that are interested in deploying thousands of devices. Use cases we are seeing include:

  • Executive travelers are seeking to bring a secure device to insecure countries, instead of a laptop.
  • Government agency looking to provide a way for employees to telework securely, using the workspace device on their home PCs.
  • A hospital is looking at providing secure workspaces to medical residents instead of providing PCs –a 10X cost savings.
  • Top universities are testing IronKey Workspaces for their students to use in computer labs, and then to allow them to bring their computing environment home.

Our new IronKey Workspace W500 represents a powerful, secure PC on a Stick offering for enterprise customers. This is a high-performance, ruggedized, high-security platform for organizations who see opportunity in using Windows To Go to support their BYOD initiatives.

You can learn more about the IronKey Workspace solutions at http://www.ironkey.com/en-US/secure-workspace/index.html.

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The Thumb Drive Conundrum: Managed USB and Encrypted Flash Drives Attack the Insider Threat

The revelation that Edward Snowden absconded from NSA with secret files on a thumb drive has generated predictable gnashing of teeth about the use of portable USB drives in secure organizations. At the same time, government and business organizations are successfully implementing secure deployments of portable USB drives so that employees can transport data they need to be productive.

The technology issue is one of competing needs: To be productive, mobile employees need the mobility, offline storage and security afforded by USB drives. To secure data, IT needs control of how employees move information and what information is moved.

The fact is that today, IT can take control without blocking USB ports. We’re not sure what safeguards the NSA had in place, but there are technologies that could prevent or mitigate this kind of insider threat. For example, secure enterprise device management software can offer:

Device Location – with managed USB drives, software can show the locations of every managed device when they connect to the Internet on a map. This allows tracking of a device that has “gone rogue” and could aid in recovery.

The “Silver Bullet” – the ability to either password-disable or perform a remote kill to completely disable the device if it goes missing or someone is suspected of copying data they should not have on the drive.

Geofencing, IP Blocking – It is possible to add rule features so that unless the device meets certain conditions, the data is automatically wiped. For example, IT could enable “geofencing” so that if device is outside the country, the data is wiped – or if it is on an unapproved network, or outside a certain IP range.

Have a Consistent Data Security Policy

It’s really a matter of having a consistent policy for your data at rest.  Many organizations require their PCs and Macs to have full disk encryption enabled.  But that policy is not enforced when it comes to removable media like a USB drive.  By using a manageable and encrypted storage device you can maintain a secure policy for your data no matter where it goes.

If we look at the SANS Top 20 Security Controls, Critical Control #17 – Data Loss Prevention specifically addresses how best to handle sensitive data and prevent it from leaving your organization without permission.  The advice from SANS is to, “deploy approved hard drive encryption software to mobile devices and systems that hold sensitive data,” and that “enterprise software should be used that can configure systems to allow only specific USB devices (based on serial number or other unique property) to be accessed, and that can automatically encrypt all data placed on such devices.”

For workers who travel, teleworkers shifting between work and home, or contractors working with your data, a secure, managed USB thumb drive is more secure than online file sharing, and certainly better than unencrypted and unmanaged notebook computers, USB devices and smartphones. And management adds an extra layer of security against both external and insider threats.  IT can address a number of potential security threats by implementing policies that require uses to use encrypted flash drives.