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Reducing security risks from open source software

Workshop One of the challenges of managing a remote desktop estate is security. It’s not a new problem, but it has been raised higher in the collective consciousness in the last few years, thanks to the proliferation of smaller, cheaper and more portable devices.

Its not enough to blame human nature - although sitting here as I type I know full well that if I were to leave my laptop on the train, its contents would be available to the next person opening it up, such is my laziness. We may talk the talk, but we don’t always walk the walk. What can we do about it?

It would be great to be able to say that we just need the right products in place. There’s no shortage of them – from personal firewalls and anti-virus and disk encryption, to Network Access Protection (NAP) and virtual private networking (VPN). Despite all such things the remote desktop estate is not what anybody would call ‘secure’. Is it?

So what’s the problem?

The issue is not an issue because of a lack of available products to use to counter the forgetfulness or the bad luck of people entrusted with the safekeeping of portable computers. Nor is it an issue because organisations have not established rules, policies and procedures designed to minimise loss or damage.

The problem is the gap between these two areas in a vital place – where the rubber hits the road. I wager that most mobile users don’t have then faintest idea exactly what is expected of them, despite being given a decently specced machine with appropriate security features and the ‘new joiner’ briefing on security procedures.

So what is reasonable to expect users to do to protect their kit, and more importantly the company information contained inside it? Our research suggests that beyond ‘getting the technology right’, the biggies are ‘smart deployment’ and ‘smart use’. In practical terms this means being a bit more savvy about how laptops and other mobile devices are rolled out, for example by setting appropriate policies, ensuring users are aware of their obligations and making it easy for them to co-operate.

Sounds good, but is this just motherhood and apple pie in your organisation? As ever, we’d love to hear about the issues you face in this area, especially if you have managed to solve them!

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