Organizations around the world are finding that mobile workers can be the key to greater service efficiency and effectiveness. If you are considering making staff more mobile, there are necessary steps to make certain that laptops do not lead to privacy and security violations.
Defining “mobile computing”
In some instances, employees can perform their jobs using tablets or even smartphones. For most, though, the best tool is a laptop computer for its:
- Comfortable screen
- Keyboard designed for high-volume data entry
- Sufficient storage
These laptops allow public employees to attend meetings, travel to job sites, and save money through "hoteling" with others in their department to save valuable office space.
How to do it safely?
Data is useless to an unauthorized user who cannot understand it, so encryption of all data at all times is the first step.
There are constructive debates about encrypting all data in a government data center, but those arguments do not apply to laptop computers.
The first tactical steps toward safe mobility are:
- Whole-disk encryption of the machine's internal storage
- Mandatory use of VPN tunnels for transferring data from remote locations
The same requirement for encryption should apply to any USB drives attached to the laptop. It does not matter whether it is a thumb drive or a multi-terabyte hard disk.
2. Mobile device management (MDM)
Mobile device management (MDM) is not just a tool for managing tablets and smartphones. The same management tools are critical for enforcing policies on laptop computers, as well.
A good MDM system will enforce policies requiring encryption, but it will also do much more, including:
- Checking for necessary anti-malware software
- Applying office-specific firewall rules
- Maintaining white-list and black-list membership for web browsers
MDM is the insurance policy the IT group needs to make sure that policies are honored.
As an insurance policy, MDM can also:
- Erase hard disks if laptop computers are lost or stolen
- Prevent employees from adding software that might circumvent regulations or policies
With data secured and policies enforced, IT managers can move to the third, and most difficult step: training employees.
Employees are often under considerable pressure to do as much as possible during their work day. Many times they will see security policies and infrastructure as roadblocks between them and productivity.
Training needs not only to explain the policies but also why they are important. When employees understand the rationale and the importance placed on those policies by management, they are much less likely to go around the policies and tools when job stress builds.
Mobile devices can be vital tools in the struggle for greater organizational efficiency. Taking a handful of steps as you deploy laptop and handheld computing devices will help ensure that the efficiency doesn't come at the cost of risky security and endangered privacy.
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