How to securely share corporate data and apps with your mobile workforce

Ben Khoushy and Paul Comessotti

Check Point's Ben Khoushy (left) and Paul Comessotti (right)

With a massive global workforce and 54 per cent of organizations anticipating an increase in remote workers, mobile computing is no longer a trend but a way of life for most businesses. While workers are increasingly demanding more access to corporate applications and data anytime, anywhere businesses are under constant pressure to operate more efficiently. These two, seemly disparate, goals can be met through innovative technologies.

Access Matters

It’s not easy. There are a growing number of devices and platforms used by employees or contractors who roam from one PC to another – some using managed PCs in the office and others who process work emails on smartphones or utilize wireless hotspots in coffee shops and airports. Yet, extending remote access across a wide range of endpoints can be a headache for any organization; passwords, login credentials, and sensitive files can be left behind on untrusted devices at the end of a remote access session, making these solutions insecure and difficult to manage.

In addition, the world has seen several recent cases where organizations have been challenged with safeguarding critical data and maintaining the flow of business in the wake of natural disaster and crisis, including the outbreak of H1N1 and the volcanic eruption in Iceland. Such events have recently forced organizations to review their business continuity plans that will accommodate a wider range of eventualities.

For most organizations, secure remote access for staff and partners is a core part of contingency planning, to ensure that business can continue if normal workplaces are not accessible or usable. What companies should consider is a new approach to remote access, to reduce the complexity and costs of managing a mobile enterprise securely.

A Secure PC in your Pocket

Today, new generations of flash drives are becoming a cost-efficient way for businesses to enable their mobile workers, securely. For example, Check Point Abra, integrates a VPN connection for remote access to the corporate network and on-board, automated hardware encryption to secure stored data against loss or theft. Users can simply insert the device in any PC or laptop, from any location, enter their login and password, and begin working as if they were in their regular office environment.

Using virtualization technologies, the solution can create a virtual desktop for the user when inserted into the USB port of any PC, anywhere. This transforms the host into a trusted endpoint for the duration of the session, with a secure VPN connection to access the corporate network and share data.  When the user ends the session, the secure virtual workspace closes. Because all the data is written on an encrypted flash drive – bypassing the host PC – no trace of the session or VPN connection remains.

Check Point Abra resolves the problems of cost, complexity and scalability for remote access and contingency planning. It enables companies to give staff and partners consistent, controlled, remote access that is completely independent of the host PC.

The Consumerization of IT

IT administrators are also seeing more requests from employees who want to connect to the corporate network with personally-owned devices. Check Point’s approach is to simplify mobile security for both businesses and end-users. Today, employees who want mobile access to their company’s intranet, corporate email and business applications, can easily visit the Apple App store, download the Check Point Mobile app, enter a login and password, and gain immediate access to their corporate resources. It’s fast, easy, and provides one-touch access to the business applications they need. Thanks to integrated SSL VPN and encryption technologies, IT administrators can allow personal devices to connect to the network with confidence knowing they are protecting against security threats – from the gateway to the endpoint.

Consider the following when implementing a practical, cost-efficient and proactive plan to enable the remote and mobile enterprise securely:

  • Establish how many remote users the business will need to support
  • Ensure your mobile security solution can accommodate a wide range of mobile endpoints, including both managed (i.e. company laptops and smartphones) as well as unmanaged devices without VPN clients (i.e. personal or partner PCs, Web kiosks, etc.)
  • Implement a solution that is flexible enough to scale quickly and accommodate unexpected events
  • Enforce strong security to protect mobile data with encryption technology; prevent data loss by controlling outgoing traffic to network and websites
  • Enable IT administrators to centrally manage user access to company resources, with the ability to grant or restrict access rights depending on the individual needs, levels of trust, device type and security status
  • Allows businesses to device-lock or remote-wipe the device if lost or stolen

To date, businesses have been challenged with data recovery as they struggle with how to prevent sensitive information from being exposed in a more mobile world. Losing mobile devices happens more often than we think and the impact to a company’s reputation and finances can be severe. By taking a fresh approach to remote access solution, enterprises can enforce a more efficient and cost-effective way to accommodate the needs of the growing mobile workforce without compromising network security.

Ben Khoushy is vice president of endpoint solutions, Check Point Software Technologies – Tel Aviv, Israel and Paul Comessotti is Canadian country manager, Check Point Software Technologies – Calgary, Alta.

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