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Security and virtual desktop environments

Posted by SecMaker, filed under Blog.

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Companies and organizations are more mobile and more flexible than ever before. The rapid changes are increasing the pressure on IT departments to more quickly and cost-effectively adapt IT environments to new conditions and needs. Increased flexibility also places new demands on IT security to protect information and applications from unauthorized view and access. As today’s IT managers re-evaluate their organizations from the ground up, the results is often a virtualization of the IT environment in combination with smart card-based login. We are now beginning and article series to take a closer look at how the combination of virtual desktop environments and smart cards can help to increase both security and flexibility.

Dissolved corporate boundaries raise the security challenge

Today’s IT managers are facing greater and more complex challenges than ever before. Private companies and public organizations are becoming increasingly mobile and flexible. Employees move about extensively, both within the workplace and outside, visiting customers, travelling, or simply working from their desk at home. More than 75% of employees in a typical Scandinavian company are currently estimated to be working on the go.

More and more organizations are also spreading out across diverse geographic locations. Corporate geographic boundaries are dissolving, and organizations become distributed over increasingly larger areas. Modern companies and organizations are more and more likely to permit consultants, project contractors and telecommuting, which is blurring the lines between internal and external stakeholders.

Information is a key resource, and constant access to information is a prerequisite for an organization’s employees to be able to do their work. Today’s IT organizations, tasked with supporting flexible businesses and their mobile employees with the right tools, information and applications, are facing all new challenges. The need to make information accessible anytime and anywhere has to contend with high security requirements for internal, classified and business-critical information

Different roles – different needs

What makes the situation even more complex is that most businesses consist of several different divisions, often with very diverse responsibilities. Employees in different organizational units have different needs when it comes to mobility and different requirements for support in terms of information and applications. For the sake of simplicity, modern mobile employees can be divided into three categories:

Mobility in the workplace

Employees in the healthcare sector are highly mobile within the workplace itself. There is a great need for healthcare staff to be able to access information, such as medical records and pharmaceutical information, while on the go. It is becoming increasingly common for work sessions to be transferred from one terminal to another as healthcare workers move between different departments or buildings during their high-pressure workdays. Meanwhile, information concerning a patient’s medical conditions, medication and treatment is of a sensitive nature. It is therefore important that the IT environment enables flexibility, without the slightest compromise to patient security or confidentiality.

Many employees in the retail sector work under similar conditions: with a high degree of mobility within a confined area. When retail personnel move through the store or warehouse, they need continual access to various applications such as POS systems, product databases and price lists to make sure they can provide excellent customer service. Sharing POS systems requires fast user switching with retained security. Information is usually of a less sensitive nature in retail than in healthcare, but the requirements for conformance and financial monitoring linked to individual bonus systems require flexible and reliable solutions.

Total mobility

While healthcare and retail workers move within a confined area, sales reps, field service personnel and senior management often move within an even larger professional sphere, working from customer or partner offices, hotels, airports and even restaurants.

The information and the services that the mobile employees need to access can include anything from Microsoft Office to CRM applications, systems for handling work orders, pricing systems, financial monitoring systems, and so on. Many of the services require direct connection to central, internal corporate business support systems and databases.

Stationary external workplaces

An increasing number of employers are allowing – and expecting – employees like managers, administrators and various types of specialists to work from home. This means that modern mobility solutions must also cover completely external workplaces.

In practice, this often entails data transfer outside company network boundaries, via email correspondence or by being copied onto an unprotected USB memory stick. IT departments typically have limited influence over home office environments. They are now facing the challenge of ensuring that workplaces with other hardware and other applications than the organization’s own can still meet the required IT security requirements.

In the following article we will take a closer look at how the increased need for mobility and flexibility is becoming one of the IT departments greatest challenges. If you want to read more about smart card-based security in virtual desktop environments you can also download our whitepaper Security and virtual desktop environments

SecMaker is the Nordic region’s leading supplier of smart card-based security solutions to companies, public agencies and organizations. If you want to know more about smart card based IT-security you are welcome to contact us.

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