With the progressive adoption of virtualisation across all infrastructure layers, is it possible to rethink the traditional security boundary?
For Al Blake, research analyst, Ovum, the answer is absolutely.
“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,” observes Blake, who documents the opportunity of identifying the perimeter and protecting 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, Blake believes 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,” Blake adds.
“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, Blake believes reducing it to encircle sensitive information as closely as possible and not additional resources that the organisation cares less about reduces complexity and risk.
“With the maturing and progressive adoption of virtualised desktop infrastructure (VDI), it is possible to maintain a stronger but smaller perimeter around the information that requires it while allowing greater flexibility outside,” he adds.
“Endpoint devices, whether PCs, thin-clients, or mobile devices, can be subject to more permissive local management regimes when information remains within the data centre.”
Furthermore, Blake believes a similar perimeter-reduction idea can be achieved through the use of containerisation technologies in mobile device management (MDM) solutions.
Without containerisation, the perimeter is the entire mobile device – and organisations have to manage all aspects of its configuration to the endorsed security standard.
“With containerisation, the perimeter is pulled back to the container, with the sensitive information inside corporately managed and everything outside unmanaged, from an organisational viewpoint,” Blake adds.
“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, Blake observes that 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, minimising the material held within the “inner sanctum” and communicating throughout the organisation why this is the most appropriate approach,” he concludes.
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