COVID-19 Shift to Security Enabled by Evolving Device Management

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The impact of the pandemic has caused security leaders to slowly shift to more secure ways of enabling users.

Speaking as part of the BlackBerry Security Summit, Gartner research director Rob Smith said where businesses once had 5000 people in one office, they now have 5000 offices “and unfortunately this is not going to change” as we need to stop thinking about enabling remote working, and just think about work.

Smith said there were three waves of how businesses dealt with the impact of the pandemic:

  • Get employees online, security doesn’t really matter
  • Try and take how we did access the first time, and make it safer and try to lock down any way we can
  • How can we do this better

Smith said most clients are between the second and third phase, but for phase three, he said it is useful “to understand that all users are not equal” as different levels of seniority requires different levels of security, and this attitude should apply to data also. “Stop thinking that all data is equal,” he said.

He recommended defining the technology variable based on the user, and what kind of device they use, as we’ve seen the “Bring Your Own PC” become a trend. “It matters what device you’re using and where it is coming from,” he said.

Smith also said there is a variable around what kind of applications the user accesses, as you cannot treat marketing and healthcare data the same, and “it is a world apart if it is just cloud data and you can keep it in cloud versus you need that data at the backend.”

The final variable is where the user is located, as in Europe the level of data protection can change from country to country, and in the US from state to state.

This allows you to build a user persona, and using device management is one way to enable this as the technology has evolved to enable the management of more than just mobile devices. “Until this year, there wasn’t really much interest in unified endpoint management (UEM) but because of COVID-19, we’ve seen a big migration to go to a single console,” he said.

Smith acknowledged there is a “legacy side” where clients run separate UEMs, but now he sees the UEM run with the client management product. He said a single management console for all devices can lower total cost of ownership and support cost, and a true UEM model can work.

“One problem we’ve seen over and over again is patching during the pandemic,” he said, citing the regular patch Tuesday from Microsoft, which crashes VPNs “which cannot handle the performance.” One solution he cited is to move patching to the cloud, and stop using the VPN, as this can use the MDM to ensure that the patch was issued. “We recommend getting away from this always on VPN traditional model to download patching, but move it to the cloud.”

He concluded by saying “COVID-19 is a mess, and you don’t have time to do things the way you used to. Pick a solution, draw a line in the sand and deploy – you can always improve it as you go along.”

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