As if managing the BYOD phenomenon wasn’t hard enough, Microsoft made it harder with its free Windows 10 upgrade. That wasn’t Microsoft’s intention, of course, and the company can’t be blamed for the increasing challenge of managing employee devices with disparate software versions. After all, it’s pretty great to get a new operating system for free.
Windows 10 is expected to run on more than 350 million machines within its first year. While “free” has accelerated its adoption, what truly sets this release apart from others is that Microsoft plans to expand Windows 10 to an unlimited number of devices via the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is becoming an increasing topic of conversation both in and outside of the workplace, in particular, in discussions around how to secure these connected devices.
Guest article by Rob Greer, CMO and SVP of Products at ForeScout
Enterprises are now juggling BYOD and the IoT, which creates a significant issue: how do you securely manage the onslaught of virtually invisible devices that are connecting to your corporate network?
In order for the IT operations team to be able to detect a device, it must have an agent. That’s how traditional endpoint security management works. Since users will be upgrading their personal devices to Windows 10 on a massive scale — and therefore will not have agents — IT administrators need a way to identify, evaluate, and secure all the new Windows 10 endpoints connecting to their networks.
Security through agentless visibility empowers IT to be able to see how many endpoints are accessing the enterprise network, and be proactive about only allowing compliant devices to access valuable applications and data.
One of the benefits to users of Windows 10 is that it enables a seamless experience across various device types. While BYOD is convenient for employees, it can wreak havoc for IT organizations. But BYOD is here to stay, and steps must be taken to safely embrace it. To provide a secure network, enterprises must consider:
- Compliance and information-sharing: Organizations must make sure that Windows 10 endpoints are compliant with their security policies and can share real-time context about Windows 10 devices with their existing SIEM (Security Information and Event Management), NGFW (Next Generation Firewall), EPP (Endpoint Protection), and patch management systems.
- Visibility at scale: It isn’t scalable or reasonable to expect IT to handle threats on both managed and unmanaged (agentless) devices as cybercriminal sophistication increases. Simply throwing people at the problem isn’t fiscally responsible, nor can it guarantee full visibility into all devices.
- Network segmentation and secure access: Network access must be enforced based on user, device, and security posture so organizations can implement best-practice network segmentation for guests, contractors, business partners, and employees. This allows organizations to onboard Windows 10 devices brought by guests, employees, and vendors securely, and provide them access to only the network resources they require to remain productive. If you are somehow able to get your arms around your employee’s personal and company-issued devices, you’d be remiss to ignore the potential threat of visiting vendors, interviewees, and delivery personnel.
Enterprise networks have become more complex as more devices demand access to them. Computing environments today include an accumulation of security products added over time, layered on top of each other vertically and laterally. Add the challenge of IoT, BYOD, and free upgrades — such as the Windows 10 release — and the result is a complicated infrastructure where full protection from cyber attacks is a daunting task.
It might seem like a stop-gap measure would be to block employees from upgrading to Windows 10, but that just isn’t realistic. Upgrades of this nature have become the norm, and it’s better to embrace, rather than fight, the growing trend. The last two years show that no matter how robust the external defenses, a determined and persistent adversary can find a way to infiltrate a corporate network.
This is why security has never been more challenging – or more important. Best practices for handling BYOD, IoT, and the threats generated by them include robust network access management and agentless visibility. Removing security silos and practicing information sharing will go a long way toward thwarting cyber criminals, while enabling employees to keep their devices current.
These actions will also enable IT security teams to be vigilant about all new types of devices showing up on the network, bolstering network security well into the future.