3 ways to combat threats from ‘device creep’

INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

3 ways to combat threats from ‘device creep’

The federal technology landscape has moved from secure desktops and desk phones to the more sprawling environment of smartphones, tablets, personal computers, USB drives and more. The resulting “device creep” can often make it easier for employees to get work done – but it can also increase the potential for security breaches.

Almost half of the federal IT professionals who responded to a recent survey by researcher Market Connections indicated that the data that is most at risk resides on employee or contractor personal computers, followed closely by removable storage tools and government-owned mobile devices. 

Here are three things federal IT managers can do to mitigate risks posed by these  myriad devices:

1. Develop a suspicious device watch list.

As a federal IT manager, you know which devices are authorized to access your network – but, more importantl, you also know which devices are not authorized. Consider developing a list of unapproved devices and have your network monitoring software send an alert when one of them attempts to access the network. You can also set up automatic device scans so that you’re not continually on alert yourself.

2. Ban USB drives.

USB drives can be a major security threat, and are highly susceptible to malware and data loss, in large part due to simple human error. USB drives are small things; they can easily be forgotten about and left just about anywhere.

The best bet is to ban USB drives completely, but if you’re not willing to go that far, invest in a USB defender tool. A USB defender tool in combination with a security information and event management (SIEM)  will allow you to correlate USB events with other potential system usage and/or access violations to alert against malicious insiders.

They can be matched to network logs which help connect malicious activities with a specific USB drive and its user. They can also completely block USB use and user accounts if necessary. This type of tool is a very important component in protecting against USB-related issues.

3. Deploy a secure managed file transfer (MFT) system.

The fact is, you don’t really need remote storage solutions in the first place. Secure managed file transfer systems can get the job done, and with less risk.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) used to get a bad rap as being unsecure, but that’s not necessarily the case. Implementing a MFT system can install high-level of security around FTP, while still allowing employees to access files wherever they may be and from any government-approved device.

MFT systems also provide IT managers full access to files and folders so they can actively monitor what data is being accessed, when and by whom. What’s more, they eliminate the need for USBs and other types of remote storage devices.

Underlying all of this, of course, is the need to proactively monitor and track all network activity. Security breaches are often accompanied by noticeable changes in network activity – a spike in after hours traffic here, increased login attempts to access secure information there.

Network monitoring software can alert you to these red flags and allow you to address them before they become major issues. Whatever you do, do not idly sit back and hope to protect your data. Instead, remain ever vigilant and on guard against potential threats, because they can come from many places – and devices.

About the Author

Chris LaPoint is vice president of product management at IT management software provider SolarWinds, based in Austin, Texas.

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