While forecasting the security culprits of the coming year has become a clichéd annual technology tradition, there is definite value in preparing for what may lurk ahead. Take for instance, how quickly the threat landscape has shifted. It’s hard to believe that movements, like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or cloud computing, have only recently emerged, yet they have become ingrained in our security posture and threat landscape. Considering this speed of change, taking a moment to reflect on the security risks ahead is not only prudent, but could save your organization from being blindsided. From my view, here’s what I’d recommend organizations, from SMBs to the enterprise, prepare for 2013.
The Contraction of BYOD
With the introduction of tablets and mini-laptops, BYOD has evolved from checking email to accessing secured desktops through terminal services and VDIs. And now, according to a recent ISACA survey, 86% of business and IT professionals consider using personal devices for business either a medium (46%) or high (40%) security risk. With the vast majority of professionals sensing something awry with the unfettered proliferation of BYOD, we’re inevitably on a collision course with reality. In 2013, I predict BYOD will inch towards relegating back to checking email from your personal computer, whereas corporate-owned laptops and tablets will experience a resurgence of popularity, buoyed by the availability of enterprise-friendly devices, like Windows 8 tablets.
With BYOD in decline, corporately-owned and –secured devices will become more prominent in the enterprise space, and as a result, a choose-your-own-device (CYOD) movement will take greater precedence.
The Comeback of the Corporate-Owned Device
Amid the heyday of BYOD, corporate-owned devices were considered antiquated and synonymous with clunky RIM devices. Building on the CYOD movement mentioned above, with the introduction of a slew of tablets that run the gamut from detachable screen ultrabooks to the convergence of laptops and tablets, companies now have a plethora of options, at varying price points, to make corporate-owned devices alluring again.
The challenge that will face organizations is how to keep these endpoints secure. While many might think antivirus is enough, more proactive measures are necessary – depending on the scope and functionality of the device. In fact, new hybrid devices must be secured just as a regular desktop, putting the onus on organizations to keep track of how quickly mobile security is becoming more sophisticated.
The Demise of the Admin Right
A little-known truth that is gaining acceptance among CTOs is that very, very few people within an organization require admin rights, including IT administrators. And this isn’t about restricting or taking away the rights of tech-savvy employees or IT administrators, it’s about protecting the integrity of the system they are trying to protect. Too often, inexperienced IT administrators or the office tech novice will, in an attempt to be helpful, perform a task that’s beyond their remit or experience level, potentially putting the entire IT system at risk. As more organizations wake up to this unnecessary risk, we can expect fewer and fewer employees, including IT admins, afforded fully privileged accounts.
Even a true administrator could log in as a standard user without ever needing a privilege account. Many organizations have taken the first step by removing admin rights from the majority of users, holding back from making the move complete only because of the inconvenience it might cause to the most tech savvy employees.
The Windows 8 Debate
Because so many companies have already begun their Windows 7 roll-outs, many will waffle with how, if at all, to embrace Windows 8. For instance, the redesigned touch screen and styled interface could interfere with productivity as employees struggle with tasks that became second nature on the older operating systems. On top of this, there are two types of vulnerabilities on Windows 8 – the traditional desktop apps, which carry the same threats as Windows 7 and the app store applications. Although the Windows store apps are arguably more secure, there are still risks associated with how thorough the application verification process will be and whether OS vulnerabilities would allow an application to escape from the confines of the sandbox. Plus, not all of the apps will be suitable for enterprise use so most organizations will want to apply some level of control here. But you can’t, nor should you, stop the tracks of progress, so I predict we will see pockets of Windows 8 adoption, driven largely by new tablets, ultrabooks and hybrid devices.
Looking back, there’s certainly much technological innovation to celebrate. But, to borrow from a well-known adage, with great innovation can also come great risk. So let’s take heed to the proper precautions and ring in a safe and secure 2013.