Remote filtering delivers protection in the field

By | February 8, 2006

It is no secret that IT managers view laptop users as a liability. In a recent Websense research report called Stress of Security, 71% of IT managers said they believed corporate laptops used outside the office and then re-connected to the network, posed a major security risk to their company. Yet only one in five had put in place automatic restrictions and policies to secure Internet use on laptops.

In the corporate environment, it is a different story. Most organisations have installed a myriad of different security products and services to protect their network and systems at key access points, such as the Internet, desktop and server level. Indeed, such is the rate of investment that the corporate environment has become almost impossible for hackers to crack.

Yet take the laptop out of the office and most companies’ security policies go out the door with it. In the Stress of Security report, it was found that more than two-thirds of European IT managers leave the responsibility of managing what happens to a corporate laptop when it is out of the office in the hands of the employee. This might protect the IT manager’s job, but what about the company’s IT systems?

As hackers become more ingenious in the ways they lure users into giving confidential information or downloading viruses and malware, ‘trusting’ remote workers not to misuse a corporate laptop – whether intentionally or not – is no longer an option, especially in an era when the number of mobile workers is set to rise significantly. Analyst group IDC, for example, predicts there will be 99.3 million mobile workers in Europe by 2007.

As in the corporate environment, the most effective way of preventing remote workers from compromising the corporate IT networks with an infected laptop is to put in place safeguards that stop them visiting malicious websites, giving information away to fraudsters or downloading applications that infect the IT network and corrupt data files. To be truly effective both inside and outside the office, an organisation’s employee Internet management policy needs to consider mobile security as much as the safety of fixed assets.

New remote filtering applications can, for the first time, extend the same web filtering capabilities used in the corporate LAN to the laptop user. This means that an organisation’s employee Internet management policy can be applied to both office-bound and mobile workers, preventing users – wherever they are based – from visiting websites deemed to be insecure or an inappropriate use of resources.

Often the problem is that remote workers are simply not aware of what websites or applications are harmful. It requires an external source to track and monitor websites that could potentially cause a security issue and prevent employees from accessing these sites to protect not only the individual’s security but also the organisations once the laptop is reconnected to the network.

At the same time, an increasing number of employees are abusing their employer’s trust by deliberately using their laptop outside the corporate environment for non-work related business. The Laptop Liabilities survey found that almost half of all workers admit to allowing users outside their company access to their corporate laptop.

Remote filtering removes the headache for IT administrators of worrying about what sites are secure or not. It also has financial benefits: given that an unprotected laptop only has a lifecycle of three days before it grinds to a halt, anything that can be done to increase its life span is likely to appeal to IT and finance managers alike.

Once the remote filtering application is installed on a laptop, it ensures that every time a request is made to visit a website, a second request is sent back to the corporate system to determine if access is allowed. Other products on the market have tended to route all network traffic, not just a single request, through the corporate network. However, this tends to create latency issues, particularly for organisations already suffering from a lack of bandwidth in their network.

Everyone understands laptops pose a problem but until now there has not been a suitable technology solution available to use that did not deplete bandwidth or slow down the network. Remote filtering puts control back into the hands of the IT manager, which, in these corporate responsible times, is where accountability should lie.

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