Secure, Network Compliant BYOD Solutions Are NOT a Myth

In a recent article featured on, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is described as an inevitable component of the evolving office ecosystem. In the same article, a statistic borrowed from an IBM study & reveals that 81% of organizations reported their employees are using their personal mobile devices to connect to “company resources”. If you are an AV integrator or the head of IT, this statistic probably conjures fears of rampant network security risks.

But BYOD doesn’t necessarily equate to network security problems. Based on the current trend of using mobile devices in the workplace – secure, network compliant BYOD solutions are almost certain to arrive in the very near future. It is up to technology innovators to meet the market demand by developing, testing, vetting, and integrating the products to keep up with the trends we see around us. In short, embracing the changing workplace dynamics – and the products that support them – is likely the only way forward.

Like any other disruptive trend in technology, there are growing pains in the adoption phase. One of the biggest growing pains for BYOD in the workplace is security. So what does a secure BYOD solution look like?

We have identified 3 key criteria for secure, network compliant BYOD solutions.

1. Routable TCP/IP Traffic with Adjustable Base Ports

The complexity of many corporate and campus networks is often matched only by their uniqueness. After all, the many subnets and VLANs included on the enterprise network were set up to serve the unique requirements of the specific organization. Therefore the likelihood of any other enterprise having the same network setup is infinitesimally small. This is why it’s so important that BYOD solutions that hit the network feature routable TCP/IP traffic with adjustable base ports – so the solution can be configured flexibly to fit the network without creating additional, unnecessary work for the IT department. This is also important in order to avoid violating IT policy, which could prohibit the deployment altogether.

2. Controlling Access from all those Devices

Another security risk associated with BYOD revolves around the regulation of access in the workplace once these devices are supported on the network. To use a common use case as an example, if a wireless BYOD presentation is taking place in the conference room, how do you prevent uninvited users from sharing content to from their device and disrupting the meeting?

For this reason, access control is our second criteria for BYOD solutions. A solution to this challenge would be to offer multiple access modes that can be set in-room or remotely. Access could then also be locked by an admin or left up to users in the room to determine when beginning a session. Additionally, access control options could be dynamic, which means they could be changed during a meeting without interrupting the flow of information posted to the shared display.

In addition to these modes, it would be ideal if any session could be closed once all in attendance have joined. This combination of access control options creates secure access for nearly every type of meeting and use case.

3. Remote/Centralized Management

It’s a hard truth that nearly all technology crashes at some point or another, and those crashes can lead to big issues for the IT department and the network. That’s why remote/centralized control is such an important factor for BYOD solutions, especially large deployments.

Not having the ability to monitor, configure, and update BYOD solutions on your network from a remote/centralized work station makes larger, more complex deployments difficult to manage. Ideally, there would be a way to support remote/centralized management of every instance across the network. Network administrators could then monitor, configure, and update settings for any/all instances from their workstation anywhere on the network.

With BYOD becoming a standard in work spaces, security is and will remain a paramount concern and consideration for evaluating new solutions. The best solutions with work with your existing network and make it (relatively) easy for your IT department to securely deploy, monitor, and manage the system. BYOD presents many inherent risks, but many of these risks can and should be addressed by solutions that work within secure network environments.

New Home Security Network Services

An invasion of a family living space is one of the worst fears that many people carry. It is bad enough when it occurs while the family is away. When it occurs while the family is present, it is even worse. There have been dozens of murderous feasts of violence enacted upon innocent families by intruders. For this reason, many people have installed home security network services.

There is a degree of controversy regarding these systems being installed in homes. Many people are concerned that it can be used to perform surveillance on the occupants, and they are not comfortable having the system installed. The facts are that many items which modern people keep on their persons at all times, such as cell phones or I-pods, can already be used in that way.

The fact is, there are many benefits to having one of these systems. Not only can it protect the family from an intruder, but it can detect smoke or carbon monoxide. In addition, cameras can be set up around the property to watch out for small children, or to make certain teenagers are doing their homework.

When the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide is detected, help is sent immediately. This takes place even before they have called the house to make certain the family is all right. Some systems can even have doors unlocked automatically so that further damage is not done to the house when emergency personnel need to get to the people inside.

Cameras set up around the home can allow the parents to watch the baby in real time. A popular feature is to set up a camera outside the front door so that the people inside can see who is knocking on the door. In addition, these video feeds can be accessed later when an emergency does happen so that any perpetrators can be caught more quickly.

These systems can result in considering savings of money as well. There are settings for each room to control the temperature, not to mention the presence of a remote control to turn off lights and other electrical items. This can save a household considerably on their power costs. Having such a system can also result in a considerable reduction in their insurance rates on the home.

Not only are these functions being controlled remotely, but many of them allow the homeowner to control these functions from their I-phone, from anywhere. This is a great feature both for parents, or a family on vacation. They can keep tabs on the activities around the house from any location. Teens who know they are being watched by a parent are less likely to engage in certain behaviors.

Even with the controversy over the new home security network services being used for spying or surveillance, the benefits of such a system cannot be ignored. There truly is no way to put a price tag on the safety and well-being of a family. These systems are not installed so much to protect property, but to protect the lives of your love ones.

Network Security Across the Enterprise – Stop Gap Measures to Help You Protect Your Network

Today’s business networks consist of numerous remote access connections from employees and outsourcing firms. Too often, the inherent security risks arising from these connections outside the network are overlooked. Continuous improvements have been made that can enhance security in today’s network infrastructure; taking particular focus on the users accessing the network externally and monitoring access end- points are critical for businesses to protect their digital assets.

Installing the correct software for the specific needs of your IT infrastructure is essential to having the best security protection possible. Many companies install “off the shelf” security software and assume they are protected. Unfortunately, that is not the case due to the nature of today’s network threats. Threats are diverse in nature, including the usual spam, spyware, viruses, trojans, worms, and the occasional possibility that a hacker has targeted your servers.

The proper security solution for your organization will neutralize virtually all of these threats to your network. Too often, with only a software package installed, network administrators spend a lot of their time at the perimeter of the network defending its integrity by manually fending off attacks and then manually patching the security breach.

Paying network administrators to defend the integrity of your network is an expensive proposition – much more so than installing the proper security solution that your network requires. Network administrators have many other responsibilities that need their attention. Part of their job is to make your business operate more efficiently – they can’t focus on this if they have to manually defend the network infrastructure all the time.

Another threat that must be considered is the threat occurring from within the perimeter, in other words, an employee. Sensitive proprietary information is most often stolen by someone on the payroll. A proper network security solution must guard against these kinds of attacks also. Network administrators definitely have their role in this area by creating security policies and strictly enforcing them.

A smart strategy to give your network the protection it needs against the various security threats is a layered security approach. Layered security is a customized approach to your network’s specific requirements utilizing both hardware and software solutions. Once the hardware and software is working simultaneously to protect your company, both are able to instantaneously update their capabilities to handle the latest in security threats.

Security software can be configured to update multiple times a day if the need be; hardware updates usually consist of firmware upgrades and an update wizard much like that present within the software application.

All-in-one Security Suites A multi-pronged strategy should be implemented to combat the multiple sources of security threats in today’s corporate networks. Too often, the sources of these threats are overlapping with Trojans arriving in spam or spyware hidden within a software installation. Combating these threats requires the use of firewalls, anti-spyware, malware and anti-spam protection.

Recently, the trend in the software industry has been to combine these previously separate security applications into an all-encompassing security suite. Security applications standard on corporate networks are integrating into security suites that focus on a common goal. These security suites contain antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-spam, and firewall protection all packaged together in one application. Searching out the best stand-alone applications in each security risk category is still an option, but no longer a necessity.

The all-in-one security suite will save a company money in reduced software purchasing costs and time with the ease of integrated management of the various threat sources.

Trusted Platform Module (TPM) A TPM is a standard developed by the Trusted Computing Group defining hardware specifications that generate encryption keys. TPM chips not only guard against intrusion attempts and software attacks but also physical theft of the device containing the chip. TPM chips work as a compliment to user authentication to enhance the authentication process.

Authentication describes all processes involved in determining whether a user granted access to the corporate network is, in fact, who that user claims to be. Authentication is most often granted through use of a password, but other techniques involve biometrics that uniquely identify a user by identifying a unique trait no other person has such as a fingerprint or characteristics of the eye cornea.

Today, TPM chips are often integrated into standard desktop and laptop motherboards. Intel began integrating TPM chips into its motherboards in 2003, as did other motherboard manufactures. Whether or not a motherboard has this chip will be contained within the specifications of that motherboard.

These chips encrypt data on the local level, providing enhanced security at a remote location such as the WiFi hotspot full of innocent looking computer-users who may be bored hackers with malicious intent. Microsoft’s Ultimate and Enterprise versions of the Vista Operating System utilize this technology within the BitLocker Drive Encryption feature.

While Vista does provide support for TPM technology, the chips are not dependent upon any platform to function.

TPM has the same functionality on Linux as it does within the Windows operating system. There are even specifications from Trusted Computing Group for mobile devices such as PDAs and cell phones.

To use TPM enhanced security, network users only need to download the security policy to their desktop machine and run a setup wizard that will create a set of encryption keys for that computer. Following these simple steps significantly improves security for the remote computer user.

Admission Based on User Identity Establishing a user’s identity depends upon successfully passing the authentication processes. As previously mentioned user authentication can involve much more than a user name and password. Besides the emerging biometrics technology for user authentication, smart cards and security tokens are another method that enhances the user name/password authentication process.

The use of smart cards or security tokens adds a hardware layer requirement to the authentication process. This creates a two-tier security requirement, one a secret password and the other a hardware requirement that the secure system must recognize before granting access.

Tokens and smart cards operate in essentially the same fashion but have a different appearance. Tokens take on the appearance of a flash drive and connection through a USB port while smart cards require special hardware, a smart card reader, that connects to the desktop or laptop computer. Smart cards often take on the appearance of an identification badge and may contain a photo of the employee.

However authentication is verified, once this happens a user should be granted access through a secure virtual network (VLAN) connection. A VLAN establishes connections to the remote user as if that person was a part of the internal network and allows for all VLAN users to be grouped together within distinct security policies.

Remote users connecting through a VLAN should only have access to essential network resources and how those resources can be copied or modified should be carefully monitored.

Specifications established by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have resulted in what is known as the secure VLAN (S-VLAN) architecture. Also commonly referred to as tag-based VLAN, the standard is known as 802.1q. It enhances VLAN security by adding an extra tag within media access control (MAC) addresses that identify network adapter hardware within a network. This method will prevent unidentified MAC addresses from accessing the network.

Network Segmentation This concept, working hand-in-hand with VLAN connections, determines what resources a user can access remotely using policy enforcement points (PEPs) to enforce the security policy throughout the network segments. Furthermore, the VLAN, or S-VLAN, can be treated as a separate segment with its own PEP requirements.

PEP works with a user’s authentication to enforce the network security policy. All users connecting to the network must be guaranteed by the PEP that they meet the security policy requirements contained within the PEP. The PEP determines what network resources a user can access, and how these resources can be modified.

The PEP for VLAN connections should be enhanced from what the same user can do with the resources internally. This can be accomplished through network segmentation simply be defining the VLAN connections as a separate segment and enforcing a uniform security policy across that segment. Defining a policy in this manner can also define what internal network segments the client can access from a remote location.

Keeping VLAN connections as a separate segment also isolates security breaches to that segment if one were to occur. This keeps the security breach from spreading throughout the corporate network. Enhancing network security even further, a VLAN segment could be handled by it’s own virtualized environment, thus isolating all remote connections within the corporate network.

Centralized Security Policy Management Technology hardware and software targeting the different facets of security threats create multiple software platforms that all must be separately managed. If done incorrectly, this can create a daunting task for network administration and can increase staffing costs due to the increased time requirements to manage the technologies (whether they be hardware and/or software).

Integrated security software suites centralize the security policy by combining all security threat attacks into one application, thus requiring only one management console for administration purposes.

Depending on the type of business you’re in a security policy should be used corporate-wide that is all-encompassing for the entire network. Administrators and management can define the security policy separately, but one overriding definition of the policy needs to be maintained so that it is uniform across the corporate network. This ensures there are no other security procedures working against the centralized policy and limiting what the policy was defined to implement.

Not only does a centralized security policy become easier to manage, but it also reduces strain on network resources. Multiple security policies defined by different applications focusing on one security threat can aggregately hog much more bandwidth than a centralized security policy contained within an all-encompassing security suite. With all the threats coming from the Web, ease of management and application is essential to maintaining any corporate security policy.

Frequently asked Questions:

1. I trust my employees. Why should I enhance network security?

Even the most trusted employees can pose a risk of a network security breach. It is important that employees follow established company security standards. Enhancing security will guard against lapsing employees and the occasional disgruntled employee seeking to cause damage to the network.

2. Do these innovations really create a secure environment for remote access?

Yes they do. These enhancements not only greatly enhance a secure VLAN connection but they also use widely accepted standards that are often integrated into common hardware and software. It’s there, your company only needs to start using the technology.

3. My company is happy with using separate software, that way each application can focus on a separate security threat. Why should I consider an all-in-one security suite?

Many of the popular software applications commonly used by businesses have expanded their focus to identify all security threats. This includes solutions from both software and hardware appliance technology manufacturers. Many of these firms saw the need to consolidate security early on and purchased smaller software firms to gain that knowledge their firm was lacking. A security suite at the application level, will make management much easier and your IT staff will thank you for it.

4. Do I need to add a hardware requirement to the authentication process?

Requiring the use of security tokens or smart cards should be considered for employees accessing the company network from a remote site. Particularly if that employee needs to access sensitive company information while on the road, a simple flash drive secure token prevents a thief from accessing that sensitive data on a stolen laptop.

5. With all this concern about WiFi hotspots should employees be required not to use these locations to connect to the company network?

WiFi hotspots have sprung up nationwide and present the easiest method for your remote employees to access the Internet. Unfortunately, hotspots can also be full of bored, unemployed hackers who have nothing better to do than find a way to intercept a busy employee’s transmissions at the next table. That’s not to say employees on the road should avoid hotspots. That would severely limit them from accessing the network at all. With technologies like S-VLAN and secure authentication in place, a business can implement technologies to reduce threats both now and in the future.

Implementing the latest network security technologies is a high priority for IT Management. In today’s network environment with many users accessing your digital assets remotely, it’s critical to get your network security correct during the planning phase of the integration process.

Obviously, it should be noted that most large companies have multiple operating systems running (Windows, Mac O/S, etc) and that for many of these companies all-in-one security suites face certain challenges in a mixed operating system environment.

That is why I stress that you consider having layered security (both hardware and software) and don’t simply rely on software applications to protect your digital assets. As technology changes so do the opportunities for security breaches.

As these security threats become more sophisticated, hardware and software developers will continue to innovate and it’s essential businesses keep up with, and implement these technologies.