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How can zero trust help secure the BYOD workforce?

With maximum telework in place for the foreseeable future, federal IT teams are focused on ensuring employees have network access to needed applications and data from any location, on any device. With the quick onset of the pandemic, many agencies were forced to take a bring-your-own-device approach to telework. The greater variety of endpoints and reduced visibility into these endpoints created even more challenges.  

BYOD and remote work as a whole complicate the agency network infrastructure, increasing the risk of a breach. For example, the operating system on a personal/remote device may not be up to date or its software patched. As federal IT leaders work to accommodate the remote workforce and the resulting added complexity, they are often turning to a zero-trust approach.

With the mantra of “trust no one,” a zero-trust architecture is a strategy for managing technology risk. Assessments and grants of trust must happen in a granular fashion. Authorized users receive access to applications – regardless of whether the user is on-site or remote, an agency worker or a third party.

Although useful, it’s not perfect

When evaluating access, systems typically rely on data that shows how the user is accessing the network. Typically, this data is several weeks or even months old -- or simply inaccurate as a result of configuration changes or other factors. The challenge is exacerbated by BYOD and consistency in devices and software. Having real-time data helps agency IT teams make a better, more informed decision on whether or not to allow access to certain data. 

Further, the collection of risk point solutions running across federal networks has only added to the problem at hand. Most point tools need an installed agent, and studies have shown that the more agents there are on an endpoint, the higher the probability that it will be breached.

To get real-time data for zero-trust access, agencies should unify teams on a single platform that integrates endpoint management and security, breaking down data silos and closing the accountability, visibility and resiliency gaps that exist between IT operations and security teams.

The platform approach helps give agencies end-to-end visibility across users, servers and cloud endpoints, and it enables them to identify assets, protect systems, detect threats, respond to attacks and recover at scale. Zero trust offers a way to keep agency data secure and employees productive – if implemented using accurate, real-time data.

The future of telework

Telework is here to stay. The increase in cyber risks due to BYOD has changed the landscape, making secure access to data and devices on the network critical. The Office of Management and Budget and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have recently called for public comment on the third edition of the Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security to identify telework areas that “industry, government, and others deem most important to revise or add.” NIST is also seeking suggestions of existing telework cybersecurity and privacy resources that could help guide updates.

We cannot resolve security concerns by disjointed solutions, by following policies and procedures that worked in the past or by asking overworked internal teams to do more than they can handle. By reducing complexity with a unified platform and leveraging a zero-trust approach, IT teams can reduce risk and act quickly to efficiently manage and secure the environment anywhere endpoints exist.

About the Author

Brian McKee is director, product management, with Tanium.


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